New defendant pleads guilty in conspiracy involving $44 million in drug proceeds laundered to Mexico through local cell phone store fronts
CINCINNATI – U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman announced a final order of forfeiture has been filed in U.S. v. Christopher Whitfield, Tonia Whitfield and Steven Griffin, ordering the forfeiture of the more than $1 million in cash, among other things, that had been seized during the execution of search warrants in this case.
The Cincinnati Police Department will net approximately $450,000 from equitable sharing.
Also included in forfeiture in this case are: seven firearms, three properties in Cincinnati, five vehicles including two luxury vehicles and a motorcycle, multiple pieces of jewelry, Gucci and Rolex watches, two ballistic vests, a number of “mink” fur coats and vests, 13 designer handbags and Beats headphones and ear buds.
“This is a great illustration of the value of criminal forfeiture,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “Instead of enriching drug dealers, these proceeds will now be put to use combatting addiction and the other ravages of drug trafficking.”
“One of the government's most powerful weapons is the ability to seize through asset forfeiture the assets associated with narcotics-related crimes,” said Troy N. Stemen, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “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.”
Christopher Whitfield, 42, of Cincinnati, Ohio was sentenced on November 3, 2016 to 120 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Tonia Whitfield, 41, of Cincinnati, Ohio was sentenced on December 14, 2015 to 12 months and one day in prison on three counts of money laundering.
Steven Griffin, 41, of Cincinnati, Ohio was sentenced on January 13, 2016 to 87 months in prison on one count each of possession with intent to distribute heroin and a felon in possession of a firearm.
A federal grand jury indicted the defendants in a 23-count indictment returned in April 2015. The indictment outlined that the group conspired to facilitate an illegal drug business, primarily cocaine and heroin.
As part of the conspiracy, the defendants operated “stash” houses to process, cut, package and store the drugs as well as firearms and money. In order to conceal the money generated from the drug sales, defendants would launder the profits by purchasing real and personal property and place assets in the names of other individuals.
This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, FBI and the Cincinnati Police Department and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karl Kadon and Jessica W. Knight.