United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Final Drug Defendant Sentenced To Prison For Massive Hashish Smuggling Scheme
Last of Four Drug Fugitives Who Were on the Run for 15 Years
LEE RUSHING, aka Anthony Bear, 66, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay a forfeiture of $2.5 million to the government for money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. RUSHING was arrested in November 2008, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. RUSHING was the last of four long-time fugitives arrested in connection with a drug smuggling conspiracy that imported 50,000 pounds of hashish into the United States in 1992. U.S. Marshals pursued RUSHING since 1997, after a federal grand jury indicted RUSHING and 20 other defendants. RUSHING was extradited to the United States. He had been living in Europe under the name Anthony Bear and was traveling on a British passport when he was arrested. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan noted that RUSHING had already surrendered more than $280,000 to the government that he had in an offshore account.
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 distributed to Oregon, California and New York by rental 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. The money was then distributed to Tillitz and others who had assisted with the marine end of the smuggling operation. 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. They found $445,000 buried in the front yard. In 1994, when a federal grand jury indicted various participants in the smuggling scheme, RUSHING and several of his conspirators fled the country. RUSHING lived in hiding and lived off the money from the drug smuggling scheme. As part of his plea agreement, RUSHING forfeited a Cayman Islands’ bank account, containing $280,000, to the government.
“Money laundering is the life blood of drug dealing,” said Marcus Williams, the IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Pacific Northwest. “We are proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with our law enforcement partners in bringing yet another major drug dealer to justice.”
In 1998, the first of the defendants, 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 sentenced 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 Attorneys 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. Assistant United States Attorney Richard E. Cohen and Deputy U.S. Marshal Paul Baxley facilitated the forfeiture of funds in the Cayman Islands.