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Press Release

Leader of a Baltimore Drug Organization Sentenced to Over 15 Years in Prison for Conspiring to Distribute Over 1,000 Kilograms of Marijuana and to Launder Drug Proceeds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland
Tally Sheets Showed Sales of $14.5 Million of Marijuana and Purchase of a Plane for $450,000

Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Matthew Nicka, age 43, of Baltimore today to 188 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Judge Titus also entered a forfeiture order requiring Nicka to pay a money judgment of $15 million, which represents the proceeds of the offense. 

Nicka, his wife, Gretchen Peterson, and co-conspirator David D’Amico, had been fugitives since the indictment was returned in December 2010.  Nicka and Peterson were arrested in Canada in early August 2013, and D’Amico was extradited from Colombia, South America.   

The sentence was  announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Commissioner Kevin Davis of the Baltimore Police Department.

According to Nicka’s plea agreement and other court documents, Nicka, Peterson and D’Amico were part of an extensive drug trafficking operation which was discovered by the DEA when they executed a search warrant at a residence in the 3500 block of Hickory Avenue in Baltimore on March 18, 2009.  The residence was a center of operation for the group. Agents seized more than 80 pounds of marijuana, $20,000 in cash, 31 cell phones, documents regarding a plane purchased for $450,000, tally sheets showing over $14.5 million in marijuana sales, four money counters and false identifications. 

As part of the conspiracy, Nicka, D’Amico and their 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.  The marijuana was then divided for distribution in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere. The defendants used multiple cellular telephones to avoid detection by law enforcement, as well as aliases and false identifications to conceal their activities.  Nicka supervised and directed the conspirators’ activities, recruited conspirators and obtained marijuana in exchange for bulk cash payments, while D’Amico oversaw the day-to-day operations, received orders for marijuana, collected money, arranged for the purchase, operation and rental of planes used to transport marijuana and cash, arranged for the transportation and storage of marijuana, and transported bulk cash payments to marijuana suppliers. Gretchen Peterson received orders for marijuana, transported currency, delivered marijuana, and arranged for deliveries of marijuana to mid-level dealers.  Nicka, D’Amico and Peterson also counted drug proceeds with other conspirators at a stash house in Baltimore. 

From 2007 through June 2009, Nicka, D’Amico, and Peterson used aliases and false identifications, and created and used shell corporations to hold and hide assets, conduct financial transactions, title vehicles, convert assets, and to conceal the source, ownership and control of the proceeds from the marijuana distribution. The defendants structured financial transactions to avoid IRS filing requirements for transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash payments in a single transaction, and further conceal from the government large cash transactions using drug proceeds.

A total of 15 defendants, including D’Amico, Nicka and Peterson, have been convicted in this case.  The other 12 defendants have already been sentenced to up to 121 months in prison. 

David D’Amico, age 49, of Baltimore, and Gretchen Peterson, age 34, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy.  D’Amico was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay a money judgment of $1 million.  Peterson and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts her plea agreement, she will be sentenced to between 84 months and 144 months in prison.  Judge Titus has scheduled sentencing for Peterson on September 8, 2016.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein 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.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Deborah A. Johnston and Mara Zusman Greenberg, who prosecuted this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

Updated May 9, 2016

Drug Trafficking