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Contraband
02/01/2012

12 indicted in large-scale drug and money laundering case

DETROIT — Twelve individuals were charged in an indictment for their role in a significant drug distribution operation that allegedly trafficked in excess of 30 kilograms of heroin, 12 kilograms of cocaine, 1,000 pounds of marijuana and laundered in excess of $21 million. The joint investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.

The charges were announced Wednesday by United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso, DEA, Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, IRS CID and Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz, HSI Detroit.

Indicted were Carlos Ellis Powell, 37, of Washington Township, Mich., Eric Jerome Powell, 34, of Franklin Farms, Mich., Ignacio Avalos, 21, of Phoenix, Kenneth Robert Daniels, 53, of Detroit, Earnest Lee Proge, Jr., 36, of Detroit, Tobias John Proge, 28, of Clinton Township, Mich., Dwayne Rnay Taylor, 35, of Detroit, Tamika Olivia Turner, 34, of Eastpointe, Mich., Juan Valle, 59, of Coldwater, Mich., Margarita Lopez DeVallejo, 39, of LaHabla, Calif., Benny Bernard Whigham, 34, of Detroit and Donald Lee Wilson, 49,of Parkland, Fla.

"Thwarting today's criminal organizations requires the collective expertise, diverse statutory authorities and jurisdiction of many agencies and departments," said Moskowitz. "This case is a perfect example of the power of collaboration and its impact on public safety here in Detroit."

The indictment, which was returned on January 25, 2012 and unsealed today, alleges that beginning in 2006 and continuing to the present, Carlos Powell, Eric Powell and ten others operated a drug organization which dealt in multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, cocaine and marijuana, in the Detroit metropolitan area. Members of the organization would arrange for large amounts of money derived from the sale of drugs to be transported to Phoenix, Mexico and elsewhere for the purpose of purchasing more controlled substances. As part of the conspiracy, members of the organization would use semi-trucks and vehicles equipped with traps and hidden compartments to transport heroin, cocaine and marijuana, as well as cash generated from the sale of these drugs.

Members of this organization, using the illegal proceeds of their narcotic sales, purchased and leased numerous luxury vehicles, acquired and sold real property, and purchased jewelry while concealing the true source and nature of the funds involved in the transaction through false names and nominee purchasers.

It is alleged that members of the organization would deposit large amounts of cash derived from the sale of drugs into various bank accounts, purchase cashier's checks and money orders, and wire transfer these funds. These funds would then be used to purchase assets and pay personal expenses with the goal of concealing the true source, nature and ownership of the funds.

"We are focused on dismantling major drug trafficking organizations that bring illegal drugs into our community," McQuade said. "We want young people to see that the lucrative rewards from drug trafficking are short-lived and lead to criminal charges."

The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of jewelry appraised at over $800,000, eight pieces of real property in Michigan and Georgia valued in excess of $750,000, 10 vehicles, including a 2004 Rolls Royce, 2006 and 2008 Bentleys, a 2006 Ferrari, 4 Mercedes', a Ranger Rover and two boats.

The investigation was assisted by the following Michigan-based agencies: Northville Township Police Department, Plymouth Township Police Department, Warren Police Department, Redford Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff's Office, Detroit Police Department and the state police.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.