GREENBELT, Md. — A federal grand jury has indicted nine individuals charged with conspiring to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana and with conspiring to conduct financial transactions to conceal the source and ownership of the proceeds of the drug distribution, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) along with the Prince George's County Police Department.
"Earlier today, Homeland Security Investigations special agents executed seven arrest warrants in Maryland and two in Arizona resulting in the dismantling of a suspected drug trafficking and money laundering organization," said William Winter, HSI special agent in charge in Baltimore. "This is an excellent example of how teamwork between HSI and the Prince George's County Police Department benefits our communities. HSI works aggressively to keep illegal drugs out of our communities, and to dismantle the criminal networks that profit from drug trafficking and the crime that surrounds it."
The two-count indictment filed in the District of Maryland was returned July 9 and unsealed Wednesday upon the HSI arrests of the following defendants:
- Jose Valenzuela, 58, of Nogales, Ariz.;
- Beatriz Valenzuela, 55, of Nogales;
- Antonio Hill Jr., aka NuNu, 32, of Largo, Md.;
- Erico Hill, aka Rico, 31, of Hyattsville, Md.;
- James Lewis Jr., aka Little Man, 22, of Hyattsville;
- Kenneth Davis, aka Benny, 24, of Hyattsville;
- Ernest Rawlings Jr., aka Junior, 29, of Riverdale, Md.;
- Errol Comma, aka E, age 30, of Lanham, Md.; and
- Jane Nkemateh, aka Jayne Nekematah, 28, of New Carrollton, Md.
The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $950,000, believed to be the value of the cash and property involved in the conspiracies. The defendants each face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the drug conspiracy and 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy. An initial appearance has been scheduled for the Valenzuelas June 11 in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz. The remaining defendants will have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt this afternoon.
"I am proud of the efforts put forth by the Prince George's County Police Department's Narcotics Enforcement Division investigators. Their work at combating this elaborate criminal scheme will prevent untold amounts of illegal drugs from spreading across communities in our county," said Prince George's County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw.
The indictment alleges that from at least June 6, 2011 to the present, the defendants conspired to transport marijuana from Arizona to Maryland. The indictment further alleges that Jose Valenzuela and his wife, Beatriz Valenzuela, shipped marijuana from Arizona to Maryland and received proceeds in return, while Antonio Hill Jr., coordinated the shipment of drugs from Arizona to Maryland and managed the laundering of the proceeds to the sources of supply in Arizona, with the assistance of his brother, Erico Hill, who, according to the indictment, also coordinated the distribution of the marijuana in Maryland. The indictment further alleges that James Lewis Jr., Ernest Rawlings Jr., Errol Comma and Jane Nkemateh all assisted in the receipt of packages containing marijuana from Arizona; and that Lewis and Kenneth Davis further assisted in the repackaging of marijuana for distribution in Maryland, and the laundering of the proceeds to the sources of supply in Arizona.
According to the indictment, it was part of the conspiracy that the co-conspirators structured financial transactions, keeping the transactions to less than $10,000 to evade IRS filing requirements for transactions involving more than $10,000 in cash, and conceal from the government large cash transactions by narcotics dealers. The indictment further alleges that the co-conspirators used third parties to open bank accounts at multiple financial institutions to promote the distribution of marijuana and conceal funds that were derived from drug proceeds.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, HSI Phoenix and the Prince George's County Police Department and is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mara Zusman Greenberg and Christen A. Sproule.