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June 10, 2015  
Contact: Public Information Officer
Number: (313) 234-4310

Columbus, Ohio Man Sentenced for Role in Large Marijuana Distribution Ring
Kevin Whitely previously pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 2,200 pounds of Marijuana Marijuana shipments were disguised as hair care products, beauty supplies and whole grain rice

JUN 10 (COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Kevin Whitely, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 84 months in prison for distributing marijuana and money laundering.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Joseph P. Reagan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Detroit Field Division, Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs announced the sentence handed down today by Senior U.S. District Judge George C. Smith.

According to court documents, in April 2010, DEA, IRS and Columbus Division of Police initiated an investigation into a marijuana trafficking organization.  The investigation revealed that from December 2009, through September 2013, Whitely was involved with a large scale narcotics organization responsible for importing and distributing multiple kilograms of marijuana throughout central Ohio.  Through surveillance, cooperating defendants, shipping documents and narcotic seizures, it was determined that this organization utilized various Ohio residences, business fronts, commercial freight, semi tractor-trailers and vehicles to store and transport narcotics and currency.

Specifically, Whitely and others received approximately 2,400 kilograms of marijuana that was transported from suppliers in Houston, Texas, to various fraudulent businesses in Columbus, Ohio. In order to conceal the identity of the marijuana, the marijuana shipments were disguised as hair care products, beauty supplies and whole grain rice in tightly wrapped packaging.  During the course of the drug operation, the organization generated a significant amount of illegal proceeds from the sale of marijuana.

On September 11, 2013, DEA, IRS and Columbus Division of Police executed a search warrant at a warehouse located on North Hamilton Road in Columbus, Ohio, and a residence utilized by Whitely located on Ilene Road in Columbus, Ohio.

Upon entering the warehouse, agents observed Whitely and three other individuals removing numerous packages concealed inside approximately 12-15 pool tables.  The packages contained approximately 500 kilograms of marijuana.  It was determined that the marijuana originated in Texas and was delivered by commercial freight to the North Hamilton Road warehouse.  Whitely and the co-conspirators intended to repackage the marijuana for the purpose of selling it to other drug traffickers in the Columbus area.  In addition to the marijuana seized at the warehouse, law enforcement also seized $65,255 in U.S. currency from Whitley’s Ilene Road residence.

During the course of the drug conspiracy, Whitely earned substantial income from the sale of narcotics.  Whitely used his drug proceeds to purchase assets and fund bank accounts through the use of nominees.  Specifically, in March 2012, Whitley used a nominee to purchase a 2012 Infiniti G37 for approximately $44,000.  Initially, Whitley paid the nominee $5,000 in cash to purchase the vehicle, and then paid the nominee $500 in cash per month until the vehicle was paid off.

Whitely also used a credit card obtained in a nominee name as his personal credit card.  Whitely paid the nominee with cash earned from his drug sales for the charges he made on this credit card.  In addition, Whitely deposited cash directly into the nominee’s bank account, in order to reimburse the nominee for expenditures made by Whitley.  Some of the transactions made by Whitely with this credit card included renting vehicles used to facilitate his drug trafficking activities.

Whitley pleaded guilty on October 28, 2014, to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and money laundering.

He was ordered to forfeit $65,255 in cash that was seized during the execution of a search warrant on Ilene Road, Columbus, Ohio on September 11, 2013.

“All financial transactions leave a trail and we have the unique expertise to follow those leads,” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.  “Not only is a criminal going to jail for his crimes, but the government has seized a significant portion of the illegal proceeds through asset forfeiture.”

U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the DEA, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Columbus Division of Police, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth F. Affeldt, who is representing the United States in this case.

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