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Narcotics
03/05/2014

NY man pleads guilty to federal marijuana trafficking charge

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A man from New York pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to marijuana trafficking under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

This case was investigated by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Gary Anthony Harris, 50, of Carle Place, N.Y., and his co-defendant Eric Bernard Harris, 46, of St. Albans, N.Y., were charged by criminal complaint Aug. 8, 2013, with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Gary Harris pleaded guilty to the charges March 5.

According to the criminal complaint, on July 27, 2011, Carl Francis Carter, 60, of Deptford, N.J., was arrested in Hidalgo County, N.M. During a routine inspection, an officer with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division found 1,163 pounds of marijuana concealed in Carter's commercial vehicle.

Subsequent investigation by HSI special agents linked Gary Harris and Eric Harris to the marijuana seized from Carter.

According to the criminal complaint, Carter had been communicating with Gary Harris on the night of his arrest, and Eric Harris had attempted to contact Carter the morning after his arrest. Investigation also revealed that July 17, 2011, Gary Harris and Eric Harris traveled from New York to Phoenix, Ariz., to facilitate the purchase of the marijuana found in Carter's commercial vehicle. The purpose of their trip was also to transport the marijuana from Tucson, Ariz., to New York. However, Gary and Eric Harris traveled July 27, 2011, back to New York after Carter was arrested.

On Aug. 13, HSI special agents arrested Gary Harris in Carle Place, N.Y., and Eric Harris in New York, N.Y. The two men subsequently appeared in Las Cruces federal court to face the charges against them. On Nov. 13, Gary Harris and Eric Harris were indicted and charged with conspiracy and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

On March 5, Gary Harris pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. In his plea agreement, Gary Harris admitted possessing 300 pounds of the marijuana that was found in Carter's commercial vehicle. He also acknowledged that Carter was hauling 1,163 pounds of marijuana when he was arrested July 27, 2011. Gary Harris further admitted traveling from New York to Phoenix to facilitate the purchase and transportation of the marijuana seized from Carter.

Gary Harris faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. His sentencing hearing has not been set. As part of his plea agreement, Gary Harris will forfeit $52,882.97 in drug proceeds that HSI special agents seized from two bank accounts and a safe deposit box pursuant to seizure warrants.

Carter pleaded to a marijuana trafficking charge Jan. 31, 2012, and admitted knowingly possessing 1,163 pounds of marijuana July 27, 2011. Carter admitted knowing that the marijuana was concealed in his commercial vehicle, and that he expected to be paid for delivering the marijuana for further distribution. Carter's sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled. He also faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Eric Harris, who has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against him, is scheduled for a change of plea hearing March 7, 2014. The charges against Eric Harris are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by HSI Deming. The New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division assisted with this investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy M. Castellano of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico, Las Cruces Branch Office.