Three Women Plead Guilty To Money Laundering In ‘Chow Mein’ Pot Smuggling Case
GUILTY PLEA: Kishma Weeks of St. Croix
CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Three women pleaded guilty to money laundering related charges in connection with the Chow Mein marijuana smuggling case that spanned the 3,438 miles between Los Angeles and St. Thomas.
Tamisha McBean, 32, of St. Thomas, pleaded guilty in federal court on St. Thomas on Wednesday to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, according to U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe.
Co-conspirators Demincia Dore, 30, of St. Thomas, and Kishma Weeks, 26, of St. Croix, pleaded guilty on June 30, 2016 and July 5, 2016, respectively, to the same charge. Sentencings for all three defendants are scheduled for November 3, 2016.
According to the plea agreements filed with the court, between July 2012 and December 2013, Mc Bean, Weeks and Dore joined a drug trafficking conspiracy whose members shipped barrels containing at least 700 kilograms but less than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana concealed in “Chow Mein” cans from Los Angeles, California to St. Thomas utilizing a trucking service.
Weeks and Dore later deposited the proceeds from the marijuana sales into their bank accounts in St. Thomas and subsequently wired the proceeds electronically to members of the conspiracy in the mainland United States.
McBean, on the other hand, used the bank accounts of Jamila Felix, a member of the conspiracy, to deposit and later wire marijuana proceeds from Felix’s bank accounts.
McBean, Weeks and Dore face a maximum sentence of 20 years, and a fine of not more than $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved in their transactions, whichever is greater.
On May 16, 2016, co-defendants 44-year-old Clarence Griffin of California, 29-year-old Robert Brown of St. Croix pled guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy and Jamila Felix pled guilty to money laundering conspiracy. On April 20, 2016, co-defendant Larry Thompson also pled guilty to misprision of felony.
“To be truly effective in our efforts to stop the illicit distribution of drugs, it is not enough to interrupt their flow,” Sharpe said. “Members of law enforcement must also make drug trafficking unprofitable to criminals such as those involved in this conspiracy. This investigation and the resulting guilty pleas clearly demonstrate that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement colleagues are committed to dismantling the illicit drug trade.”
The case is the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS-Criminal Investigations.
“The defendants in this case were part of a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy and engaged in a money laundering conspiracy to conceal the proceeds of the marijuana sales,” said Kelly R. Jackson, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigations. “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling financial transactions and money laundering schemes where individuals attempt to conceal the true source of their money. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement partners to enforce the law and follow the money, wherever it leads.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Delia Smith.
DRUG TRAFFICKER: Robert Brown of St. Croix