Indictments in Fresno-Based Interstate Marijuana Trafficking Ring
FEB 10 - (Fresno, CA) — U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent in Charge Marcus E. Williams announced today that a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Joseph Edwin Gable, aka Mike Jones, 41; Elgeron Graves, 41; Vincent Graves, 52; Herman Graves, 45; Damone Kelley, 43; Catatea James, 45; all of Fresno, Calif., and Kevin Eugene Spencer Jr., 27, of Roseville.
The indictment charges Gable, Elgeron Graves, Vincent Graves, and Kelley with conspiring to cultivate, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, distributing marijuana, and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. Elgeron and Herman Graves are also charged with cultivating marijuana in Fresno County. Gable is charged with structuring cash derived from marijuana trafficking in order to evade currency transaction reporting requirements. Gable, Kelley, James and Spencer are charged with conspiring to launder the proceeds of marijuana trafficking and with several counts of money laundering.
According to court documents, Gable allegedly was in charge of a long-term interstate marijuana-trafficking conspiracy. Some of the marijuana was grown by Elgeron Graves and his brother, Herman Graves, on property leased by Elgeron Graves in Fresno County. The Graves brothers recruited people to obtain California medical recommendations from a local physician for the purpose of growing marijuana, which was in fact being shipped to Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The Graves brothers also allegedly used a now defunct marijuana dispensary in Fresno as a front business for the interstate shipment of marijuana.
Kelley and Vincent Graves, who is unrelated to the Graves brothers, are alleged to have transported or assisted in the transportation of marijuana to Birmingham, Ala. for distribution through DK Transport, a trucking business owned by Kelley. DEA has already seized a DK Transport semi-tractor trailer valued at $25,000 and equipped with a hidden compartment used to conceal marijuana that was shipped outside of California.
During the course of the conspiracy, Gable allegedly obtained over $600,000 from the sale of marijuana in Alabama and directed the deposit of those funds into bank accounts of friends and relatives in California and Oregon in amounts less than $10,000 in order to avoid IRS reporting requirements. He directed his friends and relatives to withdraw the cash in amounts less than $10,000 and give the money back to him. According to court documents, most of the drug proceeds went through bank accounts maintained by James, an IRS employee and Gable’s half-sister, and Spencer, formerly of Fresno.
“The defendants in this case are alleged to have used California medical marijuana recommendations to camouflage a profitable interstate trafficking network,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Unfortunately, the misuse of California laws on medical marijuana by those who seek to profit from the interstate sale of marijuana for nonmedical purposes has become all too common.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA and IRS Criminal Investigation with assistance from the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Birmingham, Ala., the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the Fresno Police Department, and the Madera County Narcotics Enforcement Team (MADNET). Assistant United States Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Grant B. Rabenn are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, each drug offense carries a statutory mandatory minimum prison term of five years and a maximum prison term of 40 years, along with a fine of up to $5 million. The money laundering charges carry a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine of more than $1 million. The structuring charge carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendants are scheduled to appear in federal court in Fresno for arraignment on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin.
# # # #