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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cake Shop Owner Sentenced for Cocaine Conspiracy and Money Laundering

NORFOLK, Va. – Vernon Michael Norvell, 43, of Portsmouth was sentenced today to 16 years in prison for cocaine distribution and money laundering.  According to the plea agreement, Norvell will pay $690,000 in criminal forfeiture.

Norvell pleaded guilty on April 4. According to court documents, Norvell distributed in excess of 126 pounds (57 kilograms) of cocaine and regularly conducted transactions at his home in the Crystal Lake neighborhood of Portsmouth, at his cake business, “G’s Cake Shop – Cake For All Occasions” in Virginia Beach, and at a Food Lion parking lot off Airline Boulevard, in Portsmouth.  One confidential source regularly purchased ounce quantities of cocaine for $1,350 to $1,500 over the course of several years. Another source purchased in excess of five kilograms, often paying $46,000 per kilogram.  At times, Norvell was accepting between $60,000 and $70,000 a week for cocaine.  On five occasions from October 2014 to July 2015, the DEA, in partnership with the Chesapeake and Portsmouth Police Department, conducted controlled purchases of cocaine and crack from Norvell.

Norvell and his wife, Cheron Johnson, 31, also of Portsmouth, used the proceeds of his cocaine distribution to purchase a home in the Crystal Lake neighborhood of Portsmouth, several automobiles, expensive clothing and other material items.  The real estate purchase was one way the couple concealed the cocaine proceeds. While the home appraised for $315,000, they purchased it for $160,000, yet they made over $80,000 in payments before and after the closing, $14,000 of which was in cash.

In addition to the drug and money laundering crimes, according to court documents, from 2012 to 2014, Norvell and Johnson reported a combined adjusted gross income of $157,916, yet during that same period they deposited $926,854, including $338,860 in cash, into nearly a dozen bank accounts, including one off shore account located in Curaҫao.  From January 2011 through August 2015 the couple deposited $468,500 in cash into their accounts.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Mark R. Herring, Attorney General of Virginia; Karl C. Colder, Special Agent in Charge of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Washington Field Division; and Thomas Jankowski, Special Agent in Charge, Washington D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.  Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Butler and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew C. Bosse and Joseph E. DePadilla prosecuted the case.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:16-cr-49

Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud
Updated July 21, 2016