Three Defendants Convicted In $28.5 Million Drug Conspiracy
KANSAS CITY, KAN. A federal jury has returned guilty verdicts against three men convicted for their roles in a $28 million drug trafficking conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Marvin Lee Ellis, 36, Kansas City, Kan., was convicted Friday on one count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, three counts of distributing crack cocaine, one count of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, one count of maintaining a residence in furtherance of drug trafficking at 921 Haskell in Kansas City, Kan., one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction.
Robert Vasquez, 40, Socorro, Texas, was convicted Friday on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering.
Vernon Brown, 36, Kansas City, Kan., was convicted Friday on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine.
A fourth defendant, Kyle Stephen, was acquitted.
During trial, prosecutors presented evidence that the defendants were part of a drug trafficking organization that in October 2010 became the target of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Investigators worked to identify both suppliers and customers of co-defendant Djuane Sykes.
The investigation yielded the seizure and forfeiture of more than $2 million in cash, 194 firearms, 29 vehicles, 26 kilograms of cocaine and three kilograms of crack.
Prosecutors presented evidence that the traffickers employed a group of couriers who would transport cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to Kansas City, and U.S. currency from the Kansas City area south to be smuggled into Mexico. Robert Vazquez was one of those couriers. On Jan. 13, 2012, investigators were watching when Vasquez met other conspirators at the Swift commercial trucking center in Edwardsville, Kan., and placed a bag inside his semitrailer truck. Investigators followed him to the area of Pratt, Kan., where the Kansas Highway Patrol stopped him and seized a black duffel bag containing $549,495 in U.S. currency.
During trial, prosecutors also presented evidence that members of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department’s narcotics unit working undercover were able to buy crack cocaine several times in February and March 2012 from Marvin Ellis at 921 Haskell and at other locations in Kansas City, Kan. In addition, prosecutors presented evidence that Vernon Brown purchased quantities of crack cocaine from Sykes for several years and he sold it to individuals who came to the 2200 block of Russell to purchase drugs.
Ellis, Vasquez and Brown will be set for sentencing at a later date. They face the following potential penalties:
- Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine: Not less than 10 years and not more than life and a fine up to $10 million.
- Distributing crack cocaine: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.
- Maintaining a drug involved residence: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.
- Conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering: A maximum penalty of 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction: A maximum penalty of 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking: Not less than five years and a fine up to $250,000.
Grissom commended the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service, the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department and Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Morehead for their work on the case.