Homeland Security special agents Wednesday charged nine people in an Arizona-Maryland marijuana trafficking and money-laundering ring, dismantling the organization, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.
The nine were charged with conspiring to distribute over 2,200 pounds of marijuana and with conspiring to conduct financial transactions to conceal the source and ownership of illegal drug profits, according to a DOJ press release.
A federal grand jury indicted the nine—an indictment that was unsealed when they were arrested, according to DOJ.
The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $950,000 and each defendant faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on drug conspiracy charges and up to 20 years in the money-laundering conspiracy, if convicted, DOJ said.
Charged were Antonio Hill, Jr., 32, of Largo; Erico Hill, 31, of Hyattsville; James Lewis, Jr., 22, of Hyattsville; Kenneth Davis, 24, of Hyattsville; Ernest Rawlings, Jr., 29, of Riverdale; Errol Comma, 30, of Lanham; and Jane Nkemateh, 28, of New Carrollton. A husband and wife from Nogales, AZ -- Jose Valenzuela, 58, and Beatriz Valenzuela 55, were also charged.
The indictment alleges that beginning in June of 2011, the suspects conspired to transport marijuana from Arizona to Maryland and kept cash transactions to less than $10,000 to evade IRS filing requirements and "conceal from the government large cash transactions by narcotics dealers," according to the DOJ.
Homeland Security special agent William Winter praised county police for their work in combating what he called an elaborate criminal scheme.
“I am proud of the efforts put forth by the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Narcotics Enforcement Division investigators," he said.
The Valenzuelas were to appear Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tucson, AZ.
The remaining defendants were to appear in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.