Former Nightclub Owner Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Drug and Gun Crimes
Defendant Sought to Open “Ice Nightclub” near Seattle Center to Launder Drug Proceeds
A 40-year-old Olympia, Washington man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle, for drug distribution and illegal gun possession announced United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes. STEVEN ASIR THOMAS was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances, Money Laundering, Conspiracy to Possess Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime and being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm following a six day jury trial in April 2015. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the sentence was driven by the amount of drugs involved and THOMAS’ intent to have an attorney assaulted because of a business dispute involving his nightclub.
“This defendant was brazen in his criminal conduct, bragging about his plans to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, and launder money through a Seattle nightclub,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “While he plotted assaults and ways to trade guns for drugs, he didn’t know law enforcement was listening to every word. Now instead of enriching himself at the expense of public safety, he will pay his debt to society by serving time in prison.”
According to records in the case and testimony at trial, THOMAS had owned various nightclubs in the Seattle area, and sought to open a new nightclub near the Seattle Center called “Ice Nightclub”. THOMAS discussed his plans with a person working with law enforcement as well as with an undercover agent. THOMAS claimed the club would be a cover to launder drug money, and would generate cash for additional drug purchases. In October 2013, THOMAS worked to set up a drug deal trading methamphetamine for assault rifles. On three other occasions, law enforcement seized drugs that were either delivered or ordered by THOMAS. In October 2013, THOMAS picked up a pound of methamphetamine from a source and then “sold” it to an undercover agent in Portland, Oregon. About a week later, another two pound load of methamphetamine was seized on a bus headed to Portland – the courier was bringing it to THOMAS. Finally, in March 2014, THOMAS arranged another one pound sale in Portland of highly pure methamphetamine to an undercover agent.
THOMAS used bank accounts set up in the name of Ice Nightclub to launder money he believed to be the proceeds of drug dealing. Some of the money was provided to THOMAS by undercover agents acting as drug dealers in order to ferret out the nature and extent of THOMAS’ wrongdoing. The plan that THOMAS came up with was for drug dealers to give him cash disguised as an investment in the club. Then THOMAS would write a check from Ice Nightclub accounts to an entity connected to the drug dealers to make it appear that the Ice Nightclub was paying for services rendered. THOMAS collected a fee from the “drug dealers” for his assistance in disguising the criminal source of the funds.
Finally, on March 27, 2014, law enforcement executed a search warrant at THOMAS’s residence. They found a loaded Glock 9 mm Model 19 firearm next to his bed. Also in the residence was evidence of drug dealing including cocaine, 14 cell phones, scales, currency bands and evidence of a previous marijuana grow. THOMAS is prohibited from possessing guns due to a felony drug conviction in 2006 in Arkansas.
“Individuals who create businesses that launder profits for drug trafficking organizations should understand that they will actually be the ones paying the price when they forfeit their freedom and the proceeds of their criminal acts,” said Brad Bench, Special Agent in Charge of ICE HSI in Seattle. “The sentencing of this defendant sends a clear message that law enforcement will not tolerate the actions of those who use the cover of legitimate business to conceal cash obtained from drug trafficking and associated acts of violence in order to bring dangerous narcotics into our communities.”
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the Seattle Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jerrod Patterson, Nicholas Manheim, and Lisca Borichewski.