New defendant pleads guilty in conspiracy involving $44 million in drug proceeds laundered to Mexico through local cell phone store fronts
COLUMBUS, Ohio – One of six defendants in a Columbus-to-West Virginia methamphetamine ring pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court via video conference to a drug conspiracy crime punishable by 10 years up to life in prison.
Charlee Ann Blankenship, 32, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.
According to court documents, in spring 2019, Columbus Division of Police officers received information from law enforcement in West Virginia that large amounts of methamphetamine were being transported from Columbus to be distributed in West Virginia.
Further investigation revealed Blankenship and five others were distributing large quantities of the drug and using various residences in Central Ohio to store and distribute the methamphetamine. Drug premises included residences on Rumsey Road, Lock Avenue and Esther Drive, among others.
Co-conspirators charged in this case include: Joseph Brian Howard, Timothy D. Copley, Samantha Howard, Darin T. Copeland and Marvin C. Bozeman, II.
Blankenship’s plea agreement details that she was responsible for Howard’s drug transactions while he was incarcerated for a post release control violation. While incarcerated, Howard regularly kept track of both quantities of drugs and cash as they were distributed and discussed them with Blankenship in jail calls. Howard also explained in jail calls who had past drug debts for Blankenship to collect.
In a June 14, 2019 jail call, Howard told Blankenship that Blankenship “did almost 10 yesterday” meaning $10,000 in drug sales.
Blankenship also began coordinating the transportation of 9 to 10-pound packages of methamphetamine from Las Vegas to Columbus for the group to distribute. When three such packages went missing in July 2019 within the postal system, Howard told Blankenship in a jail call he got the feeling that “I just lost $42,000.”
In October 2019, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Blankenship’s residence and discovered quantities of suspected heroin, crack and fentanyl, as well as a pink 9mm handgun.
Congress sets the minimum and maximum statutory sentence. Sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the Court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; and Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the plea entered into yesterday before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin W. Kelley and Elizabeth Geraghty are representing the United States in this case.
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