Baltimore Marijuana Distributor Who Was a Fugitive for More Than Nine Years Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges
Defendant is Expected to Be Sentenced to Eight Years in Federal Prison
Greenbelt, Maryland – Jeffrey Putney, a/k/a Jeffy, Tom, and J.P., age 43, of California, formerly of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to federal charges of maintaining a drug-involved premises and to possession with intent to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Putney has been a fugitive since the indictment was returned in December 2010. The guilty plea was entered on September 4, 2019.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jesse Fong of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Acting Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department.
According to Putney’s plea agreement, from 2003 until about June 2009, Putney conspired with Matt Nicka, Gretchen Peterson, Andrew Sharpeta, David D’Amico, and others to distribute marijuana.
As part of the conspiracy, Putney and his co-conspirators obtained large quantities of marijuana grown in Canada and northern California, which they transported by plane and tractor trailer, to warehouses in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Putney and his co-conspirators stored marijuana in warehouses, vehicles, and a storage unit, and purchased and rented residences that were used to store and distribute marijuana and to count and collect cash proceeds from the marijuana sales. For example, Putney shared a storage locker with a co-conspirator where they stored marijuana. Putney had a key to the locker.
As detailed in the plea agreement, three to four times a week Sharpeta, D’Amico, Nicka and, at times, Putney, counted drug proceeds which generally ranged from $20,000 to $100,000, then placed the money in different boxes and set it aside. The money was then bundled into $50,000 packs and loaded into a suitcase or duffle bags in increments ranging from $100,000 to $1 million. The co-conspirators then locked or super-glued shut the suitcases or duffle bags and transported the cash via private airplane or tractor/trailer to pay the source of supply in California.
Putney also personally participated in several financial transactions involving the proceeds of the marijuana conspiracy and designed to conceal the nature, source, ownership, and control of those proceeds. For example, Putney facilitated the purchase of a Lancair IV-P aircraft for $450,000 for the co-conspirators to use to transport marijuana and drug proceeds for the conspiracy. As part of the effort to purchase this aircraft, the co-conspirators created a holding company called Air Sky Holdings and indicated that the purpose of the company was to provide air taxi services so as to disguise the true purpose of the company and the aircraft.
On March 18, 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a raid on a stash house that Putney oversaw located at 3522 Hickory Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland and which served as one center for operations for the conspiracy. Law enforcement seized from the residence over 100 pounds of marijuana, $20,000 in cash, 31 cellular telephones, documents regarding the purchase of the Lancair IV-P aircraft, four money counters, tally sheets with balances over $1.5 million, and false identifications. On March 18, 2009, prior to the execution of the raid by law enforcement, law enforcement had been following Putney. Putney related his suspicion to Sharpeta just before the police arrested Putney in a car. At the time of his arrest, Putney was in possession of a duffle bag containing $38,000 in cash and five cell phones.
After the raid, Sharpeta and Nicka scrambled to clear out the other warehouses of marijuana and to burn the drug trafficking organization’s ledgers. Nicka collected funds from members of the drug trafficking organization to hire defense attorneys. Putney directed one co-conspirator to use attorney James Michael Farrell, who was subsequently indicted and convicted in a separate case for his role as consiglieri in the marijuana conspiracy.
After the execution of the warrant, and while in hiding, Putney moved from Baltimore to California, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then returned to California. Putney was aware that he and other members of the conspiracy had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Maryland, and that federal law enforcement was searching for him. At one point, Putney married his girlfriend to prevent her from testifying against him in grand jury. The two later divorced but not before his wife attempted to sell several high-end watches Putney had purchased with drug proceeds during the marijuana conspiracy in order to get money for Putney to remain on the run.
Putney was arrested in January 2019, in Nevada after a Nevada trooper pulled him over for a traffic violation.
Putney and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Putney will be sentenced to eight years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for November 8, 2019, at 9:30 a.m.
A total of 15 defendants have previously been convicted in this case and were sentenced to up to 188 months in prison.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur praised the DEA, IRS-CI, and the Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore County and Baltimore City Police Departments for their work in the investigation and thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for its assistance. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant United States Sandra Wilkinson, who is prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.
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