Could an unsuspecting individual be tricked by sophisticated drug traffickers into transporting large sums of money across state lines? That was a claim in the defense of a man recently tried in federal court in Pittsburgh.
In 2008, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration stopped the 56-year-old after he flew from Pittsburgh to Oakland, California. The trip was reportedly his sixth to that destination in a span of 99 days. Agents searched the man's bag and found $104,000.
He was later charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Authorities claimed that he and four other people used a variety of means of transportation, including charter flights, trucks and courier services, to move 2,000 kilograms of cocaine into Pittsburgh from California.
IRS Criminal Investigations reportedly traced transactions indicating that the defendant flew on the same planes and was at the same locations as the other members of the alleged conspiracy. Three of those individuals testified against the man.
The attorney who prosecuted the case questioned how the defendant, who was apparently unemployed, would come into possession of a large sum of cash. The prosecutor went on to say that if the defendant was willfully blind to a crime, then the defendant should be found guilty.
A jury was swayed by the prosecution's argument. The one-week trial led to a guilty verdict, and the man's sentencing has been scheduled for late May.
As we've discussed in previous posts, often the key to protecting a defendant's freedom is finding errors made by drug agents and prosecutors. The prosecution must prove an evidentiary connection between the defendant and the alleged crime, but mistakes made by authorities during searches and wiretaps can lead to the suppression of evidence.
In any case, individuals facing federal drug charges should understand the importance of early preparation in defending against the allegations.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Californian found guilty in Pittsburgh on federal drug conspiracy charges," Rich Lord, Jan. 22, 2014