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Press Release

Owners of Virginia Beach Cake Shop Plead Guilty to Money Laundering, Drug and Tax Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – Vernon Michael Norvell, 43, and his wife, Cheron Johnson, 31, of Portsmouth, both pleaded guilty today to various drug, tax, and money laundering crimes.  Norvell pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute of cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Johnson pleaded guilty to money laundering and making a false statement in a tax filing.

According to court documents, Norvell was a kilogram level cocaine dealer that 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.

According to court documents, Norvell and Johnson 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 and 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.

Both Norvell and Johnson will be sentenced on June 22. Norvell faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, while Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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 the pleas were accepted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller.  The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Butler and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew C. Bosse and Joseph E. DePadilla.

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 Nos. 2:16-cr-48 (Johnson) and 2:16-cr-49 (Norvell).

Updated April 4, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Financial Fraud