United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
FINAL DRUG DEFENDANT PLEADS GUILTY TO MONEY LAUNDERING IN MASSIVE HASHISH SMUGGLING SCHEME
Last of Four Drug Fugitives Who Were on the Run For 15 Years
LEE RUSHING, aka Anthony Robert Bear, 65, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to money laundering in connection with a massive 1992 hashish smuggling scheme. RUSHING was arrested in November 2008, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. RUSHING was the last of four defendants captured in connection with a drug smuggling conspiracy that imported 50,000 pounds of hashish into the United States in July 1992. U.S. Marshals had pursued RUSHING since 1997, when a grand jury indicted RUSHING and numerous other defendants. Rushing was living in Europe under the assumed name Anthony Robert Bear and using a British passport. In 2010, the Netherlands granted the United States’ extradition request and RUSHING was transferred to the United States. RUSHING faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced on June 3, 2011 by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan.
According to records filed in the case, in 1992, RUSHING joined with conspirators Frank Falco, Jeffery Jay Warren, and others in a scheme to smuggle 50,000 pounds of hashish from Pakistan into the United States. The men hired a fisherman, Robert Tillitz, to arrange the transfer of the hashish from a freighter to a smaller fishing boat off the coast of Washington. Tillitz rented a home and a warehouse in South Bend, Washington, and rented a boat, truck and trailer for the transportation of the hashish. The boat, the Kila Kila, was rented in Seattle and transported to Willapa Bay. In July 1992, the Kila Kila and two other fishing boats met the “mother ship” out in the Pacific. The Kila Kila transported 50,000 pounds of hashish to shore and the drugs were transported to California and a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York using leased trucks.
Falco rented an apartment in New York City which served as the headquarters for the drug distribution conspiracy. The 50,000 pounds was an enormous amount of hashish and they tried to control the distribution so that the market would not be flooded causing the price to drop. Some of the money was distributed to Tillitz and others to pay off those who had assisted with the marine end of the smuggling operation, the offload, and transport of the hashish. The large amounts of cash ultimately led to arrests in the case. On September 18, 1992, officers served a search warrant on Tillitz’ home in Crescent City, California, and found $445,000 buried in his front yard. When a federal grand jury in Seattle in 1994 indicted various participants in the smuggling scheme, Falco and several of his conspirators, including Tillitz and Warren, fled to Mexico. In 1998, Tillitz was arrested in Mexico, extradited, and later convicted by a federal jury in Tacoma in connection with the drug smuggling operation. Tillitz served over ten years in prison.
In April 2007, Mexican authorities arrested co-defendant, Jeffery Warren, where he was living in hiding near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The United States extradited Warren and he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma in January 2008. Warren was scheduled to 50 months in prison in May 2009.
Shortly after Jeffery Warren’s arrest, Richard Harrison surrendered to U.S. Homeland Security officials at the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales. Harrison later pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma and was sentenced on April 11, 2008 to 21 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Frank Falco was arrested after turning himself in at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico in March 2008. Falco was sentenced to ten years in prison on March 27, 2009.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the DEA and FBI. The U.S. Marshal Service actively pursued several of the fugitives for almost 15 years. A number of Assistant United States Attorney’s have worked on the case over the years including Kenneth Bell, Francis J. Diskin, and Bonnie McNaughten. Currently, Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Thomas is prosecuting the case.