Four Sentenced for Conspiracy and Money Laundering as Part of Large Scale Marijuana Trafficking Organization
AUG 12 -- PHOENIX – Elizabeth W. Kempshall, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Phoenix Field Division joined Interim U.S. Attorney John J. Tuchi, to announce the sentencing of Joy Doreen Watson, 45, of Sherman Oaks, Calif.; Juan Lomas, Jr., 29, of Phoenix; Stewart Edwards, 36, a resident alien in the United States from Jamaica; and Joel Eras-Machado, 28, a citizen of Mexico living illegally in the United States, by U. S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton for charges related to marijuana trafficking. The court sentenced Watson, the leader of the organization, to 18 years in prison. Watson was a drug trafficker for 16 years in Phoenix and has a prior conviction for drug trafficking.
After a three-week trial in April 2009, a jury found Watson and Edwards guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. Watson was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Eras-Machado was found guilty of possession with intent to distribute fewer than 100 but more than 50 kilograms of marijuana. Lomas and Dwayne Onfroy pleaded guilty in March 2009. Four additional co-defendants entered guilty pleas before trial.
“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message to drug traffickers that their actions have serious consequences,” said Elizabeth W. Kempshall, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “The DEA and our law enforcement partners will never waver in our efforts to bring those who would prey upon the weakness of others to justice, and we will continue to do our part in making sure that they are held accountable for the lives they have ruined by peddling these dangerous poisons.”
Interim U.S. Attorney John J. Tuchi stated that, “The sentences imposed on this group of traffickers takes another significant bite out of the organizations who have chosen to use Arizona as a venue for their large-scale drug trafficking activity.”
The court sentenced co-defendant Juan Lomas, Jr. to 108 months prison, a $15,000 fine, and five years of supervised release. Watson used Lomas as her source of supply for eight years, and Lomas let her launder drug proceeds through his landscaping company. Stewart Edwards served Watson’s organization in many roles by wrapping and guarding the marijuana, and accompanying her to rent stash houses; Edwards received 60 months in prison and four years of supervised release. Finally, Eras-Machado was part of a three-person source of supply of the marijuana. The court sentenced Eras-Machado to 54 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Edwards and Eras-Machado face potential deportation proceedings following their prison terms.
“Because Phoenix is a national transportation and distribution center for the illegal drug trade, the coordinated efforts of law enforcement are particularly critical to stemming this scourge on our citizenry,” stated Andrea Whelan, Special Agent In Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. “The IRS Criminal Investigation Division plays a key role in these major investigations by tracing the illicit drug trafficking proceeds, to support criminal prosecutions and asset forfeitures.”
“The level of cooperation among the investigating agencies in this case has been tremendous,” said Pete Zegarac, Inspector in Charge of the Postal Inspection Service’s Phoenix Division. “Postal Inspectors joined forces with our DEA and IRS partners to assure that this large drug operation was dismantled and the perpetrators held accountable for their actions.”
During the investigation, DEA agents seized more than 450 pounds of marijuana from two suspected stash houses in Laveen, Ariz. The seized marijuana was anticipated to be part of a planned 760 pound deal with a negotiated price of $550 per pound. The bulk transaction value of the marijuana was $418,000. Watson and others agreed to broker the deal by bringing together multiple sources of supply of the marijuana and a buyer. Watson’s organization would earn the difference between the price demanded by the sources of supply for their marijuana and the price Watson’s organization negotiated with the buyer. Edwards assisted Watson and others to help the drug trafficking organization function. Eras-Machado and others brought approximately 200 pounds, or approximately 90 kilograms, of marijuana to one of the Laveen stash houses to be part of the larger 760 pound transaction.
Special Agents of the DEA and IRS teamed up to conduct an investigation into Watson’s money laundering activities. They found bank accounts opened by Watson in the name of another person with nearly $400,000 in bank deposits over an eight month period. This was done in an effort to conceal the nature, source, ownership and control of money derived from marijuana trafficking. They also found hundreds of receipts for cash purchases related to the organization. The receipts showed that money derived from marijuana trafficking was also used to promote the drug trafficking organization by paying rent and utilities for stash houses, purchasing packaging and shipping materials, paying co-conspirators, and paying for other items that helped promote the success of the organization. The investigation revealed insufficient evidence of significant employment by Watson.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service. The prosecution was handled by Jennifer E. Green and Glenn B. McCormick, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
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