News Release
July 3, 2006

Nine Additional Defendants Indicted in International Marijuana
Trafficking Ring
Four Canadian Citizens, Four U.S. Citizens, and One Australian Citizen Indicted

ANCHORAGE, AK - Acting U.S. Attorney Deborah M. Smith announced today that the federal grand jury returned an indictment against nine additional members of an international drug trafficking ring responsible for importing and trafficking at least $10 million worth of marijuana during the past five years. On April 22, 2006, federal and state investigators seized approximately 347 pounds of marijuana from the Ranes and Shine welding and towing shop in Anchorage. The new indictment brings the total number of defendants indicted to fifteen.

The new indictment alleges that the six previously indicted Alaska defendants, led by Thomas Ranes, obtained marijuana from two alleged Canadian sources of supply of the marijuana, or “BC Bud”. One Vancouver based source is alleged to include Canadian citizens Samuel Joseph Matachuk, 36, and Mitchell S. Leblanc, 37, of Whitehorse. The other source, based in Whistler, British Columbia is alleged to include Kurtis Croy, 34, and Kyle MacDonald-Wolochatiuk, 31, both of Squamish, BC, and Australian citizen Daniel J. Kneitel, 36, formerly of Whistler, BC. In addition, the indictment charges U.S. citizens Rodney Rhoden, 27, formerly of Wasilla, Justin Killian, 29, of Chugiak, Joshua S. Murphy, 24, of Anchorage, and James Robert Ranes, 60, of Bay Minette, Alabama. The indictment alleges that both Murphy and Killian distributed marijuana for the organization, while Rhoden and Robert Ranes drove vehicles with hidden compartments containing marijuana and money. In addition, Robert Ranes is alleged to have arranged international wire transfers from Alabama to a Latvian bank totaling approximately $600,000 in drug proceeds. The nine new defendants join Thomas P. Ranes, 31, Nopenon Dennis Shine, 42, Dylan N. Bales, 28, Curtis H. McDonald, 50, Kevin A. Browning, 29, and Robert H. McDonald, 29, all of whom the grand jury previously indicted in April 2006. The new defendants all face charges of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana; additionally, James Ranes has been indicted for three international money laundering charges.

"This particular case shows that the DEA and our partners in law enforcement are committed to going after members of drug trafficking organizations whether they reside locally or abroad," said Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Seattle Field Division.

“The charges against the alleged Canadian suppliers are the result of our ongoing efforts to combat international drug trafficking,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Deborah Smith.

The maximum penalties for conspiracy to import marijuana and for conspiracy in relation to drug trafficking are a minimum of 10 years in prison and maximum of life in prison, a $4 million fine, and at least four years of supervised release. The maximum penalties for money laundering and international money laundering are 20 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Alaska State Troopers' Major Offenders Unit, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Anchorage Police Department. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police based in Whitehorse and Vancouver provided assistance. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office.



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