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Informant led Spokane detectives to suspected drug dealers

A confidential informant led Spokane County Sheriff’s Office detectives to a married couple dealing meth out of a Spokane apartment, according to criminal complaint filed in United States District Court Tuesday.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives arrested Mark W. Bush (pictured left) and Crystal K. Peterson on the morning of April 4 after serving a search warrant to their apartment at 1717 E. Mallon Avenue.

Court documents describe the informant as a felon with several convictions including theft, burglary, and lying to authorities. The informant was compensated financially for the information leading to the arrest of Bush and Peterson, documents show.

The informant bought meth from Bush three times during the investigation, they told detectives, but Peterson was only present during a deal on one occasion.

Investigators seized 11 ounces of meth from the home during the search including four small bags inside a box of Nilla Wafers. Additional bags of meth were found in the bedroom in a black bag, a dresser drawer and in the kitchen freezer.

Investigators also found a purse under a mattress in the master bedroom with a cell phone and a spiral notebook with a variety of names and phone numbers.

Although the Drug Enforcement Administration was not present at the time of the search warrant last week, a special agent is filing the complaint against Bush and Peterson after Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich pushed for federal charges to give him a longer prison sentence if convicted.

Knezovich compared Bush’s criminal record to convict Eddie Ray Hall who was sentenced to a 16 years in a federal prison last year. Bush is in custody at Spokane County Jail for his 39th arrest in Washington state.

Pursuing federal charges against a repeat offender is a common tactic, Knezovich said, because it can give them a longer prison sentence and keep them off the streets.

Knezovich described this drug ring as localized and the meth was most likely not produced in Spokane.

Related content: Sheriff exasperated with repeat offender

Feds: Dad gave marijuana to young kids

A medical marijuana patient arrested in Yakima Monday told authorities he provided marijuana to his three young children.

Troy Mallard Craig, 32, said two of his children also have medical marijuana cards, according to a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at Craig's home in the 3300 block of Barge Street about 4:15 p.m. and seized 67 marijuana plants, bags of processed marijuana, a digital scale and several medical marijuana cards.

Craig said he'd been growing marijuana for about two years and giving it to five or six friends in exchange for “donations.”

“Craig admitted to providing marijuana in one form or another to all three of his children, ages 2, 5, and 7,” according to the complaint.

Craig remains jailed in Yakima after appearing before U.S. Magistrate James Hutton Tuesday.
  

Canadian cocaine smuggler gets 4 years

A Canadian man caught with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border in February has been sentenced to about four years in prison.

Jonathan Darren “Grundy” Smith, 40, is to serve 51 months for possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

Smith faced 10 years in prison, but his lawyer asked for a reduced sentence because Smith was not to be involved in the distribution of the cocaine once he smuggled it into Canada.

Smith had traveled into the United States to obtain the cocaine when a border patrol agent saw him on the east side of Highway 395 on Feb. 16 “frantically trying to climb the snowy berm at the edge of the roadway” near the Laurier border crossing, according to court documents.

Police found 30 packages of cocaine in two backpacks.

Investigators believes Smith, who played on the Canadian Rugby Junior National team in 1990 and 1994, is the same Grundy described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with an informant in 2009.

Smith's father was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding, Calif., and Smith has traveled around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico. He was living at his brother's condominium in Whistler, B.C., before his arrest.

Prosecutors had objected to a reduced sentencing for a mitigating role, saying that Smith's conduct was neither minimum nor minor.

“The cocaine could not be distributed in Canada without first being exported from the United States into Canada. In keeping with the critical nature of this role, it was not left to chance but was assigned to the an experienced and well compensated smuggler,” according to court documents prepared by prosecutors. “As a result, the Defendant’s conduct would not have been substantially less culpable than that of the average co-participant in the presumed, uncharged conspiracy.”

U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush sentenced Smith to 51 months in prison on Friday. He remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to federal prison.

Past coverage:

March 24: Cocaine suspect already on DEA's radar

Iraqi-Mexican drug ring busted in Calif.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy talks about the indictments evolving from arrest made in the undercover operation involving Iraqi Immigrants and Mexican drug cartels at a news conference Thursday in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

By JULIE WATSON,Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal officials said Thursday they've busted a drug trafficking ring involving Mexico's most powerful cartel and members of an Iraqi immigrant community in the U.S. who were caught selling illegal drugs, assault rifles, grenades and homemade explosives.

About 60 people from the Iraqi community were arrested after a six-month investigation carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in the city of El Cajon, a working-class city east of San Diego.

Many of the suspects are Iraqi Chaldeans — Christians who fled their homeland amid threats from al-Qaida and other extremists. Police say at least some of those arrested are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, an Iraqi gang based in Detroit.

Authorities say the suspects were working out of an Iraqi social club in El Cajon and shipping drugs supplied by Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel to Detroit, home to the largest Chaldean population in the United States, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday. El Cajon has the second largest Chaldean population.

 Officials were tipped off after neighbors and even some of the club members' spouses complained for years about the establishment's criminal activity, which has included attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales.

Authorities seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

In April, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade by one of the Iraqis and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

Canadian cocaine smuggler pleads guilty

A Canadian man suspected of being a major international drug smuggler has pleaded guilty to a federal cocaine charge.

Jonathan Darren “Grundy” Smith, 39, faces 10 years in prison when he's sentenced in August.
Smith was arrested near the border Feb. 16 with two backpacks containing 71 pounds of cocaine.

Investigators believes he's the same Grundy described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with an informant in 2009.

Smith's father was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding, Calif., and Smith has traveled around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico. He was living at his brother's condominium in Whistler, B.C., before his arrest.

Smith pleaded guilty June 3 to possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. He's at the Spokane County Jail awaiting sentencing.
  

Cocaine suspect already on DEA’s radar

A Canadian man arrested with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border is believed to be a major drug smuggler who's been on the Drug Enforcement Administration's radar since 2009, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Family members of Jonathan Darren Smith, 39, wrote letters to the court describing Smith as a former professional rugby player known as Grundy.

The DEA suspects Smith is the same “Grundy” described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with a drug informant in 2009, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Ohms said Wednesday at Smith's bail hearing.

Smith matches the physical description of Grundy, and aspects of his personal life match what the informant told drug investigators, Ohms said. Smith also has a “Grundy” tattoo.

Ohms said the informant described four or five drug smuggling trips conducted by Grundy, including the transport of Ecstasy into the United States by foot, then to Redding, Calif., by automobile, and the transportation of 11 kilos of cocaine from the United States into Canada.

Grundy's father also was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding. He served 60 months in prison, Ohms said. Grundy also “has done extensive traveling” including trips to Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico.

“The inference is that this defendant is, in fact, occupied as a smuggler,” Ohms said. “That's what he does. This is not an isolated incident.”

Should Smith be allowed to return to Canada, “he's going to be subject to answering to that organization, and perhaps that organization won't want him to return. Because why would they? He might cooperate,” Ohms said.

Smith's lawyer, Jeff Niesen, emphasized that Smith has “serious medical problems” that likely won't be address at the Spokane County Jail.

“It would have been nice if he had been married. It would have been nice if he had 15 kids,” but he's still entitled to be considered for pre-trial release, Niesen said, noting that Smith has never been accused of violence.

Smith, who played on the Canadian Rugby Junior National team in 1990 and 1994, has been at the Spokane County Jail since his arrest Feb. 16.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno's decision on whether to hold Smith without bond has not yet been filed.

Teen arrested on Ecstasy, gun charges

A 19-year-old Spokane man is in custody after a federal drug informant recorded him discussing how he'd stolen firearms and would “shoot it out with the cops” if he was approached.

Patrick Hayes Wellman was arrested on Friday just yards from Glover Middle School and within 1,000 feet of Shadle Park High School, where he attended, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks.

He appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail.

Investigators found hundreds of Ecstasy tablets in a safe at Wellman's apartment at 221 S. Adams in Spokane Valley, as well as marijuana on a coffee table and several bongs that “all smelled pretty bad,” Drug Enforcement Administration agent Sam Keiser testified on Wednesday.

The DEA began investigating Wellman after a confidential informant told them Friday that Wellman sold large quantities of Ecstasy and repeatably said he could obtain as many pills as he wished.

The informant was to buy 100 pills from Wellman for $450. During a recorded conversation, Wellman allegedly boasted to the informant of stealing firearms; when the informant asked what he would do if stopped by police, Wellman responded “Well, I'm not going to go down easy. I'm going to shoot it out with the cops,” Keiser testified.

That comment led police to initiated a traffic stop after tailing Wellman as he drove in Spokane last Friday. Five police vehicles blocked Wellman's car, and he was arrested without incident, Keiser said. He had  a loaded .44 revolver in the car, Keiser said.

Wellman called his girlfriend from jail and told her a possible name of the informant, then asked her to inform two of his friends. The informant told the DEA he received a message from an unknown number saying “We know you're a snitch. You're dead.”

Asked by Wellman's public defender if the informant, who was previously arrested on drug charge, won't face criminal charges because of his cooperation, Keiser said, “if it's enough to warrant that, then yes.”

Wellman faces federal charges of possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. He's also charged in Spokane County Superior Court with residential burglary, first-degree theft, second-degree car theft, and six counts of theft of a firearm.

Feds raid medical pot shops in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Federal agents with guns drawn raided at least 10 medical marijuana operations across Montana on Monday, the same a day that a bill to repeal the state's medical marijuana law stalled in the Legislature.

Agents near Helena burst into Montana Cannabis' greenhouse, where the company grows more than 1,600 plants for its four stores across the state. The greenhouse runs about half the length of a football field and is packed with marijuana plants that can be seen from U.S. Highway 12.

About 15 workers were inside the warehouse during the morning raid. Montana Cannabis employee Brett Thompson, 30, said he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and saw agents running up the driveway.

“They came in, guns drawn, got us down on the ground and in cuffs as fast as they could,” Thompson said.

Federal agents detained Thompson and his co-workers in handcuffs outside the greenhouse, where sheriff's deputies and Helena police officers stood guard. Inside, agents in DEA and FBI jackets wearing respirator masks and blue gloves yanked waist-high plants from their pots and hauled them out of sight wrapped in blue tarps.

It was not immediately clear why the raids took place.

A spokeswoman in the U.S. attorney's office in Montana said the federal agents executed search warrants that are under seal. She declined to comment further.

Agencies involved included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Medical marijuana has become a hotly debated issue in Montana, and the Legislature has been debating whether to eliminate the law. The industry has exploded in the last year and reached the point where one out of every 19 households in Montana now has a medical marijuana card.

Montana Cannabis co-owner Christopher Williams (left) told The Associated Press that raids were taking place at his business' four locations. An advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, said at least 10 businesses were raided in six cities across the state.

The DEA and U.S. attorney's office would not confirm how many businesses were raided.

Thompson said they questioned each worker individually and then released them, except for one worker who had an outstanding warrant.

The search warrant allows agents to take the company's computers, data storage, products and plants, Williams said, but he wasn't sure why the raids were taking place. His personal and business bank accounts were also frozen, he said.

A warrant obtained by Americans for Safe Access and signed by U.S. magistrate judge Jeremiah Lynch of Missoula listed 13 items to be seized, including marijuana and hashish, drug paraphernalia, computers and other electronic storage devices, cell phones, firearms, transportation and customer records, transaction records, cash, jewelry and vehicle titles.

The warrant, which was for Big Sky Patient Care of Bozeman, did not say why the items were to be seized.

“It's strictly a political move to stop us from providing medicine to sick people,” Williams said, standing outside the fence at Montana Cannabis.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-6 to reject House Speaker Mike Milburn's House Bill 161, which would repeal the medical marijuana law approved by Montana voters in 2004. Republican Committee Chairman Sen. Terry Murphy said the panel will look into creating a reform bill to tighten regulation of the industry.

Barbara Trego, Williams' mother and another worker at the Montana Cannabis, was at the Capitol for the hearing, said she received word of the raid before the vote. She said some of the people who use the company's marijuana are cancer patients and she feared what would happen to them if the operation shut down.

“We weren't trying to hide anything. Our windows are open. Our door was open,” she said. “We've got patients that could die just by what's happened today.”

The raid caused traffic to slow as people passing by tried to ascertain what was happening. One man in a minivan honked his horn and shouted out the window, “Thank you, Helena Police Department! It's about time!”

Williams said of the 1,680 plants inside the greenhouse near Helena, 480 were flowering plants that produce about 5 ounces of marijuana each. He said he sells an ounce for $190 — meaning approximately $456,000 worth of marijuana was confiscated from that one location.