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Press Release

Prolific Marijuana Smuggler Sentenced To Six More Years In Prison For Attempting To Buy A Reduction In Sentence

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew has sentenced Joe Harry Pegg (70, Ft. Lauderdale) to six years in federal prison for conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, and lying to federal law enforcement officers. The court ordered him to serve this sentence consecutive to his current 30-year term of incarceration that is set to expire in 2020. Pegg was found guilty on August 17, 2017, following a jury trial.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, during the 1980s and 1990s in south Florida, Pegg was a significant drug trafficker who made millions of dollars by importing and distributing marijuana. In 1982, he was convicted in the Eastern District of Louisiana for conspiring to import and distribute nearly 650,000 pounds of marijuana. By the early 1990s, Pegg was the head of a marijuana shipping organization that used go-fast boats to transport large quantities of marijuana from the Caribbean to the Dry Tortugas, off the coast of Florida. In 1994, Pegg was arrested by federal agents after one of his vessels was intercepted off the coast of Fort Myers with approximately 10,000 pounds of marijuana onboard. He was subsequently convicted for a marijuana importation conspiracy and was sentenced in 1996 to 30 years in federal prison.

In 2008, while incarcerated at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, Pegg and his cellmate, Isidro Moreno, devised a scheme to defraud the United States by attempting to secure Pegg’s early release from prison using “third-party cooperation.” In some instances, an individual can stand in for a cooperating defendant and provide assistance to law enforcement and ultimately reduce the defendant’s original sentence. Pegg and Moreno knew, however, that third-party cooperators couldn’t be paid by anyone, including Pegg or anyone acting on his behalf.

After Moreno was released from prison, he enlisted Fernando Morales to act as a third-party cooperator on Pegg’s behalf, whereby Morales agreed to work with law enforcement to set up drug deals that would be credited to Pegg to try and reduce his sentence. Morales agreed to be the third-party cooperator, but he also wanted compensation for his efforts. Pegg, Moreno, and other conspirators agreed to pay Morales $60,000, and to conceal the payments from federal authorities.

After an arrest was made as a result of Morales’s cooperation, authorities learned that Pegg, through his family members, had made large cash payments to Moreno and Morales. Once Pegg learned that the government was investigating his conduct, he directed Moreno and others conspirators to lie to investigators and to conceal the payments from government officials.

In addition to Pegg, two former federal agents were convicted for their involvement in this scheme. Former DEA agent Samuel Murad, the case agent who originally investigated Pegg’s marijuana trafficking case, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and witness tampering and received a year in prison for failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars received from the Pegg family, and for obstructing the FBI’s investigation. Former DEA agent Robert Quinn was sentenced to three years’ probation for lying to federal agents. Isidro Moreno and Fernando Morales were also convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice and lying to federal authorities, respectively.

These cases were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Simon A. Gaugush, Josephine W. Thomas, and Anita M. Cream.  

Updated April 10, 2018

Drug Trafficking