Jamaican Ringleader Of An International Marijuana Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization Pleads Guilty
APR 11 -- The guilty plea in federal court on Thursday by the Jamaican ringleader of an international marijuana trafficking and money laundering organization brought to an end an investigation that began in 2005 and resulted in guilty pleas from 34 defendants.
Acting United States Attorney Martin C. Carlson announced that Rodney Hutchinson, also known as “Jamaican Mike,” pleaded guilty on Thursday before Chief Judge Yvette Kane in United States District Court in Harrisburg. Hutchinson, 39, of Harrisburg, pleaded guilty to being involved in conspiracies to distribute marijuana and to launder money. The United States alleged that approximately 6,000 pounds of marijuana were distributed in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York City and elsewhere as part of the conspiracy. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy also involved the laundering of several million dollars. Hutchinson agreed to forfeit a home in Mountaindale, Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County, in which he had an interest as well as to a money judgement in the amount of $1.32 million. The combined maximum penalty for both offenses is 40 years’ imprisonment and fines totaling $1.5 million. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 13, 2008.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Carlson, the investigation began early in 2005 when a package shipped by United Parcel Service was intercepted and found to contain marijuana. Later that year. agents with various agencies working in cooperation stopped a vehicle in Cumberland County that was headed for Tucson, Arizona. The car had $186,000 in United States currency secreted in it which represented the proceeds of earlier marijuana sales. That money was going to be used to purchase additional marijuana from Abraham Perez, a convicted co-defendant who was Hutchinson’s supplier in Tucson. There were other seizures of cash and money that occurred in 2005 and 2006. According to Carlson, on two occasions, convicted co-defendant Marc George was stopped by police and a combined total of approximately $600,000 in drug proceeds was seized. Traffic stops of Hutchinson’s couriers in Texas and Missouri led to the seizure of almost 1,000 pounds of marijuana. Hutchinson was eventually arrested on May 2, 2006 near Riverside, California, in a vehicle that contained 219 pounds of marijuana.
Carlson said that with Hutchinson’s arrest. agents were able to determine that Hutchinson operated a network of couriers who would transport currency to Tucson in vehicles or via commercial airline and then transport hundreds of pounds of marijuana back to the Harrisburg area and elsewhere where it would be given to distributors for sale. One of those indicted and convicted for involvement in the conspiracy was the United Parcel Service ground manager at the Harrisburg International Airport who used her position to monitor packages of marijuana that were being shipped by the organization to Harrisburg from Tucson and elsewhere. The investigation also led to the conviction of a plastic surgeon from the Tucson area who had a practice in Mexico and who surgically removed the fingerprints from several of the drug traffickers involved with Hutchinson to help them avoid arrest. One of those traffickers was apprehended as he attempted to cross the border from Mexico into the United States and was detected by border agents when they observed that his bandaged hands and feet as he had not recovered yet from the surgical procedure.
According to Carlson: “This was one of the most farreaching and sophisticated organizations that we have ever investigated. But in the end, as with all such illegal enterprises, it was uncovered, dismantled and all of the participants prosecuted and sent to federal prison for decades.” Carlson also praised the joint efforts of the various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involved in the case:“ In all there were at least 26 agencies and various components of those agencies involved in this investigation. Without the combined efforts of all of these dedicated men and women working together selflessly towards a common goal, this drug trafficking organization would still be reaping in millions of dollars in drug proceeds. In fact, the investigation was so successful that not a single defendant went to trial.”
The agencies involved in the investigation include: the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Harrisburg Resident Office, as well as the DEA Resident Offices in Tucson, Riverside and Los Angeles; the Department of Homeland Security–Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; the U.S. Marshal Service in Harrisburg; the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General; the Pennsylvania State Police, including the Bureau of Criminal Investigation-Central Interdiction Unit, Bureau of Emergency and Special Operations (BESO), the K-9 Unit, Electronic Surveillance Unit, Aviation Unit, the Pennsylvania State Police Special Response Team (SRT), Troop H Vice Unit, Troop H Harrisburg Patrol Unit, Troop H Carlisle Patrol and Crime Unit, and Troop L Vice Unit; Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center; Dauphin County Drug Task Force; Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office; Dauphin County Criminal Investigation Division; Harrisburg City Police Department; the Dauphin County and Pennsylvania State Probation Offices; Upper Allen Police Department; Cumberland County Drug Task Force; Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Investigation; East Pennsboro Police Department, Carlisle Police Department; Franklin County Drug Task Force; Cornwall Borough Police Department; Steelton Police Department and the Dauphin County Crisis Response Team (CRT).
The investigation and prosecution of all of the defendants was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney William A. Behe with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.