Five Members of Marijuana Conspiracy Plead Guilty
OCT 22 -- (ANCHORAGE, AK) – DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin and Acting United States Attorney for the District of Alaska, Karen Loeffler, announced today, October 21, 2008, that five members of a marijuana-trafficking organization pled guilty in federal court last week. The defendants, Wallie Scott Vierra, 43, of Anchorage; Steven Michael Roberts, 32, of Vancouver, Washington; Keith Harrington Edwards, 38, of Anchorage; Linda Rae Harrigan, 55, of Anchorage; and Judy Carol Staffa, 62, of Manteca, California, admitted to conspiring to distribute at least 1000 kilograms of marijuana into Alaska.
Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin stated, "Vierra was a major player in a losing game and his guilty plea confirms what law enforcement knew all along."
According to plea documents filed in court, the defendants pled guilty to being part of a conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Alaska between 2000 and 2007. The defendants helped arrange for the shipment of approximately 100 pounds of marijuana, or “BC Bud”, from Canada roughly every two to six weeks, primarily concealed in secret compartments in fuel tanks mounted on the beds of pickup trucks. The defendants sent cash to Canada to pay for the shipments, often concealing the cash in the same secret compartments used to transport the marijuana.
Vierra pled guilty to conspiring with Tom Cody to import and distribute over 1000 kilograms of marijuana in Alaska. He also agreed to forfeit approximately $1 million cash, boats, real estate, motor homes and vehicles as proceeds of marijuana trafficking. Cody was murdered in 2005, in furtherance of the “Ranes and Shine” drug conspiracy. In a separate indictment, Vierra pled to money laundering involving a $50,000 check he wrote as part of his investment in Platinum Jaxx Bar and Restaurant. According to plea documents, Vierra also invested approximately $500,000 cash in Platinum Jaxx. Vierra forfeited his approximate 25% interest in Platinum Jaxx to the United States.
Defendants Linda Harrigan, Judy Staffa, Steven Roberts, and Keith Edwards all admitted to driving vehicles hauling marijuana between Canada and Alaska. The indictment lists 68 entries into Alaska from Canada by the alleged conspirators in furtherance of the importation scheme. Additionally, Edwards pled guilty to manufacturing the secret compartments in fuel tanks and Roberts admitted to distributing the marijuana once it arrived in Anchorage.
The defendants are scheduled for sentencing between November 2008 through January 2009.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigations and the Alaska State Troopers Major Offenders Unit.