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Press Release

Leaders of a Baltimore Drug Organization Plead Guilty to 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 - David D’Amico, age 49, of Baltimore, Matthew Nicka, age 43, of Baltimore and his wife, Gretchen Peterson, age 34, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  D’Amico, Nicka and Peterson 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 guilty pleas were 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; Interim Chief Henry P. 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 their plea agreements, the defendants 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, the defendants obtained large quantities of marijuana grown in Canada and northern California, which they transported by plane, tractor trailer and trains, 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, D’Amico, Nicka 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.

As part of their plea agreements, the Court will order the forfeiture of all proceeds obtained or retained as a result of the offense.  For Nicka, this includes a money judgment of $15 million, and for D’Amico and Peterson it includes a money judgment of $1 million.

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. 

Nicka, Peterson, and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts their plea agreements, Nicka will be sentenced to between 168 months and 228 months in prison; and Peterson will be sentenced to between 84 months and 144 months in prison.  D’Amico faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison for the marijuana distribution conspiracy; and a maximum of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy.  U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for D’Amico and Peterson on May 2, 2016, and for Nicka on May 9, 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 January 13, 2016

Drug Trafficking