Pubdate: Sat, 28 Apr 2007
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2007 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Author: John Diedrich
Note: MAP archives articles exactly as published, except that our 
editors may redact the names and addresses of accused persons who 
have not been convicted of a crime, if those named are not otherwise 
public figures or officials.
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


Area Residents Paid to Pose As Passengers, Federal Officials Say

Using a pair of tour buses and people paid to pose as travelers, a 
group of men has been running millions of dollars worth of marijuana 
from Arizona to Detroit for more than a year, according to a federal 
investigation announced in Milwaukee Friday.

On Wednesday, federal agents surrounded one of the buses in Arizona, 
seized $1.4 million in cash and arrested three men. Agents caught up 
with a second bus in Oklahoma City, where four duffel bags containing 
$1.2 million were pulled out of the external luggage compartment, 
according to the criminal complaint and news release from the U.S. 
attorney's office. Agents did not seize any drugs, just cash.

[redacted] are charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 
kilograms of marijuana and appeared in court in Arizona Friday. If 
convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison and $4 
million in fines.

The case will be prosecuted here because the investigation started 
after a Wisconsin drug agent learned about the operation. An 
informant in Milwaukee told the agent that someone had robbed drug 
dealers on a bus of $1.3 million. Also, bus drivers and riders were 
recruited out of Milwaukee, and several area residents were on board 
Wednesday, officials said.

Last month, police found more than $1 million of that robbery loot - 
in vacuum-sealed bags stashed in a storage locker on Milwaukee's 
south side - and began tracking the drug-running buses, according to 
the criminal complaint.

The complaint says that starting in January 2006, [redacted], and 
others leased buses in the name "Jackson Coach Line" to ferry large 
sums of cash from Chicago and Detroit to Arizona and return with 
drugs. The operation opened a checking account at a Chicago bank and 
tried to disguise the drug money as part of the bus operation, moving 
$500,000 through the account, the complaint said. [redacted], the 
tour bus operator who was on the bus stopped in Oklahoma City, has 
not been charged.

The bus would start in Chicago with passengers on board, each of whom 
was paid at least $1,000 in cash, the complaint says. The bus would 
travel to Detroit and stop at an abandoned building, where it would 
pick up another passenger, who would put duffel bags - presumably 
full of cash - in the luggage compartment, the complaint says.

Then the bus was off to Arizona, with about 15 passengers on board.

The bus would stop in Tucson at the International House of Pancakes, 
where the bags of cash were taken off, the complaint says. Riders 
were told to lie down in the bus so they couldn't see what was going 
on outside.

The bus would then go to a hotel in Phoenix, where riders would stay 
overnight. The next morning, the bus would return to Tucson, where 35 
to 40 duffel bags - presumably filled with marijuana - were loaded. 
Then the bus would go directly back to Detroit, where again 
passengers were ordered to lie down. Finally, the bus would return to 
Chicago, where passengers were paid $1,000 each.

In January, a couple of the passengers staged a robbery and got away 
with $1.3 million and took it to Milwaukee, the complaint says. When 
agents found the cash, about $200,000 had been spent on a house and 
cars, the complaint says. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake