Two dozen people have been indicted for a national cannabis smuggling operation that shipped California cannabis to New York, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of New York, the indictments cover an alleged six-year operation that “shipped thousands of kilograms of marijuana” and edibles from Fresno, California, to “locations throughout the United States, including the Capital Region of New York.”
The 99-page indictment alleges that between 2016 and 2022, Dwight Singletary, McKenzie Cole, and several other defendants in Fresno used the small shipping store Fast Pack & Ship to send cannabis products via UPS and FedEx to the New York Capital Region, where at least 11 of the defendants received the parcels and sold them on the illicit market.
The defendants also allegedly ran a money laundering scheme, prosecutors said, which included money transfers, transportation and delivery of cash, the use of cashier’s checks, real estate transactions, and cash and money order deposits into companies controlled by Singletary and Cole.
The money laundering aspect includes allegations that Singletary bought two residences in Fresno for $820,000 and used hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for renovations at other properties he owned in New York. Singletary allegedly purchased one home in the Albany suburb of Troy in 2016 for $9,000 and sold it four years later for $250,000, according to the indictment.
Law enforcement officials also requested forfeiture actions for seven properties in Fresno and New York, more than $300,000 in cash seized from defendants’ bank accounts, multiple vehicles, jewelry seized worth $500,000, several other “luxury items,” and an undisclosed number of firearms and ammunition that were seized during search warrant executions.
The unsealed indictment identified 17 of the defendants, but another seven remain unnamed. Several of the defendants are also previously convicted felons. The charges for defendants include:
- Conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances
- Possession with intent to distribute controlled substances
- Money laundering
- Transactions in criminally derived property
- Possession of ammunition by a prohibited person
- Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime
- False statements
The arrests and indictments are a result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Troy Police Department in New York, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The indictments come at a time when New York in particular is struggling to crack down on its illicit cannabis market, much of which is fueled by cannabis from the West Coast, including California and Oregon.
New York cannabis industry insiders have reported for months that branded products from those states are easily available at smoke shops in New York City. Though law enforcement officials in New York have begun taking some steps to close down the underground market – which began flourishing last year after legalization went into effect – there are still reportedly over 1,400 such illicit operators in New York City alone.