News and Press Releases

Ring Skimmed Credit Cards and Shipped Multi-Kilo Packs of Marijuana to Chicago Area

January 11, 2010

MARIO EARL, 31, of Seattle, Washington, the leader of a crime ring involved in both drug trafficking and bank fraud was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 102 months in prison, five years of supervised release and approximately $30,000 in restitution for Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana and Bank Fraud. EARL was arrested in January 2009, following an investigation of a drug trafficking organization moving large amounts of marijuana from Seattle and Phoenix, Arizona to Chicago, Illinois. At sentencing U.S. District Judge James R. Robart commented that “a vast number of people wound up in criminal conduct because of the drug distribution ring headed by Mr. Earl.... There are serious consequences for a number of individuals.”

The investigation of the drug trafficking followed a bank fraud investigation which revealed members of the conspiracy were obtaining identity documents in other people’s names and “skimming” identifying information from bank debit cards and credit cards. Investigators learned that the leaders of the bank fraud ring were also distributing large amounts of marijuana to the Chicago area. The conspirators were shipping 15-20 pound boxes of marijuana to Chicago via FedEx. The conspirators would dump fabric softener in the boxes to try to mask the smell of marijuana. Willie James Earl, MARIO EARL’s brother, was a participant in the conspiracy and was sentenced last November to 68 months in prison.

In his sentencing memo, Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi urged a lengthy sentence saying EARL “has a lengthy criminal history, including prior drug offenses, weapons offenses, crimes of violence, and fraud/identity theft offenses. He has conclusively shown that he cannot be deterred from committing crimes in the future. Indeed, Defendant was arrested in Chicago in the midst of the fraud scheme, charged in state court, and released on bond. He nonetheless continued to engage in the drug conspiracy while on pretrial release. There is little reason to believe that a short sentence in this matter will serve to deter him. A lengthy sentence is therefore necessary to incapacitate Defendant, and to protect the public from his future crimes.”

Also sentenced today was EDDIE VAUGHN CHANEY, 37, of Seattle, who also participated in the same marijuana trafficking conspiracy. Judge Robart sentenced CHANEY to 54 months for acting as a courier, and for stealing the identity of an innocent victim in the attempt to avoid arrest on other criminal warrants.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), the King County Sheriff’s Office, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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