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Press Release

Three More Sent To Federal Prison For Roles In Large Scale Marijuana Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

Contact: Steve Young

Three men are headed to federal prison for their roles in a marijuana trafficking organization that brought large amounts of high-priced marijuana from Colorado and California to Iowa.

Jesse Tolen, Shannon Ehlts, and Corey Marx all pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and were sentenced today in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade.  Tolen had also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

  • Tolen, 36, from Castella, California, was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment and will report to the Bureau of Prisons on a later date.

  • Ehlts, 38, from Lowden, Iowa, was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment and will report to the Bureau of Prisons on a later date.
  • Marx, 29, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment followed by a two month period of home detention.  Marx is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison

All three must also serve three-year terms of supervised release after their prison terms.  There is no parole in the federal system.          

Tolen, Ehlts, and Marx were the last of twelve people to be sentenced in the conspiracy.  Sentences for the twelve ranged from probation to 46 months’ imprisonment.  The organization was dismantled through a DEA investigation that involved court-authorized wiretaps on multiple cellular phones.

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Lightfoot and Matthew Cole, and investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice.  The DEA Task Force consists of the DEA; the Linn County Sheriff's Office; the Cedar Rapids Police Department; the Marion Police Department; the Iowa City Police Department; and the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement.. 

Court file information is available at cgi-bin/  The case file numbers for the twelve sentenced defendants are as follows:  Mark Swanson 14-CR-66; Nels Nelson 14-CR-6; Chad Straub 14-CR-20; Robert and Brenda Leonard 14-CR-37; Tolen 14-CR-39; Matthew Fritz 14-CR-78; Ehlts 14-CR-79; Tyler Scheer 14-CR-82; Marx 14-CR-85; James Allen 14-CR-86; and Cory Kintzel 14-CR-92

Updated February 19, 2015