- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2011

Federal authorities have dismantled what investigators described on Friday as a “significant, national drug ring” operating in Virginia that made millions of dollars trafficking marijuana and recruiting college athletes to target fellow students for drug sales, prosecutors say.

“Marijuana is an addictive, dangerous gateway drug that often leads users to graduate to other deadly narcotics,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride in Alexandria said in announcing that 18 suspected drug gang members had been charged in the case. “Distributors often rely on guns and physical violence to enforce debts and ensure the success of their business, allured by the potential for significant profit peddling contraband.

The 18 were accused of participating in a nationwide distribution ring smuggling high-quality marijuana from growers in northern California to mid-level dealers in numerous states throughout the country. After coordinated arrests, 17 of the suspected conspirators were in custody and one remained a fugitive: Marvin Powers, Jr., 39, of Vallejo, Calif.

According to court documents, the ring was led by Anthony Guidry, Sr., 46, also of Vallejo, Calif., who prosecutors said trained and then worked with others as interconnected wholesale dealers of marijuana they either grew or purchased from the growers. From 2005 through the present, the documents said the conspirators took orders for various marijuana strains and shipped multi-pound quantities to suppliers in more than a dozen states.

A criminal complaint affidavit said many of the conspirators carried firearms while conducting drug sales and used weapons and assault to intimidate those who had not paid, including targeting the young children of those in debt to conspirators.

Prosecutors said Mr. Guidry was focused on extending his enterprise to as many states as possible, recruiting distributors from all walks of life, including college athletes, to help open distribution centers in cities and college campuses in Virginia, Georgia, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to court records.

The records said Mr. Guidry controlled more than 20 bank accounts that conspirators used to deposit proceeds from marijuana sales in whatever state sales were made. To avoid detection by police, the records said he also hired people to fly around the country to pick up bulk cash payments and return to California. The court documents also said Mr. Guidry was the owner of a company named “Daddy’s Girl Handyman,” which was based out of his residence and was a front to launder illicit drug proceeds and appear to have legitimate income.

Mr. Guidry is accused of using drug proceeds to purchase multiple homes, vehicles and a boat. In a two year period, investigators say he received deposits of nearly $1 million into his various accounts.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Guidry obtained wholesale marijuana for as little as $1,200 a pound, which he sold for as much as $5,000 per pound at the retail level. Investigators conservatively estimate that the conspiracy generated at least $2 million in profits during the course of the conspiracy. Prior to arrest, law enforcement had seized 71 pounds of marijuana and $161,980 in money orders from the conspirators.

Court records also show the drug ring was uncovered through the January 12 arrest of Moataz Mohammad Masoud, 26, of Alexandria. While detained on marijuana distribution charges, the records said Mr. Masoud telephoned other conspirators to ensure that they continued his marijuana dealing operation.

According to the records, James Cutri, 22, of Springfield, is the leader of a marijuana and oxycontin distribution network based in Virginia.

Others arrested were Nahom Hagos, 23, of Alexandria; Yonata Hagos, 24, of Alexandria; Justin Johnson, 23, of Pittsburg, Calif.; Cristina Patino, 28 of Pittsburg, Calif.;Munir Abdalla Saad, 36, of Benicia, Calif.; Noe Briones, 26, of Rodeo, Calif.; Nathaniel Wilson and Jeremiah Wilson, twin brothers, 26, of Atlanta, Ga.; Julius Watson III, 23, of Sacramento, Calif.; Tracy King, 44, of Norfolk; Tiffany Solorio, 22, of Rio Linda, Calif.; Anthony Giuliani, 44, and Annette Ross, 51, of Covelo, Calif.; and Robert Williams, 22, of Springfield.

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