Central Ohio Supplier Of “Mountain Of Marijuana” Sentenced To More Than 11 Years In Prison
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS, Ohio —A Columbus man was sentenced Thursday to 135 months in federal prison for his role as a supplier in a large-scale drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracy that was targeted and dismantled by the Central Ohio HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) Drug Task Force.
U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio, Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS), Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, Columbus Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs and other members of the task force announced the sentence handed down today by U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost.
Levi Winston, 50, of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty on May 2, 2013 to charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and money laundering. Judge Frost sentenced Winston to 135 months on each count and ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
“Mr. Winston’s conduct is that of bringing in a literal mountain of marijuana into the Southern District of Ohio,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hunter told the court. “His admitted relevant conduct is approximately 5,000 kilos of marijuana which has an approximate street value of between four- and four point five million dollars.”
During the course of the investigation, a known drug trafficking organization transported several tons of marijuana from Mexico to central Ohio. Winston and his associates hid large quantities of the drugs inside tractor trailers and industrial machinery. On October 17, 2011, HSI special agents and task force conducted a controlled delivery of 1,798.12 pounds of marijuana to a warehouse that Winston had rented located in Gahanna, Ohio. Winston and several of his associates were later arrested on conspiracy to distribute illegal drug charges.
The HIDTA Task Force is operated as part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission. “We are pleased by the strong work coming out of this OOCIC task force to fight organized drug crimes,” said Attorney General DeWine. “This is a clear example of successful teamwork between local, state, and federal agencies.”
"This sentence emphasizes HSI's mission to take down major trafficking organizations in our communities," said William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. "HSI remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to dismantle and disrupt these criminal conspiracies."
“The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs. Without these ill-gotten gains, the traffickers could not finance their organizations,” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS, Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “IRS-CI is united with the rest of the law enforcement community in our resolve to financially disrupt criminal organizations that commit crimes against our society.”
Sheriff Zach Scott said of the investigation, “I would like to congratulate the Central Ohio HIDTA Drug Task Force and the US Attorney’s Office on a job well done. Drug traffickers prey on Central Ohio because of its ideal geographic location. This is a prime example of agencies working together to send a loud and clear message that drug trafficking will not be tolerated in Franklin County and law enforcement will be diligent in bringing those involved to justice.”
According to Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs, “The level of cooperation between local, county, state and federal authorities continues to play an important role in keeping the citizens of Columbus safe and in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the Columbus area.”
In addition to the nearly 2500 pounds of marijuana seized by investigators in Columbus, the cooperation of several individuals and intelligence gathered during the investigation of this conspiracy has directly led to the seizure of an additional 3500 pounds of marijuana worth more than $3 million dollars in several other jurisdictions across the United States.
Other agencies participating in the investigation include Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s Office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Gahanna Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Hilliard Division of Police, Ohio Casino Control Commission and the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Program.
Nine other individuals have pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute narcotics or conspiracy as a result of the investigation:
Didnicio Diaz-Barrera – Sentenced October 10, 2012 to 33 months in federal prison.
Adan Anaya – Sentenced June 6, 2012 to 57 months in federal prison.
Pedro Barrera-Diaz– Sentenced June 10, 2012 to 33 months in federal prison.
Alberto Hernandez – Sentenced June 6, 2012 to 12 months in federal prison.
Antonio Andriao – Sentenced May 1, 2012 to 21 months in federal prison.
Steven Johnson– Sentenced August 8, 2013 to 60 months in federal prison.
Robert Crook -- Sentenced September 20, 2013 to 12 months in federal prison.
Jose Garza -- Sentenced September 17, 2013 to 46 months in federal prison.
Marco Torres – Sentenced August 8, 2013 to 24 months in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the agencies, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Hunter, who prosecuted the case.