Thursday, July 01, 2004

Feds want dealer's house

Feds want dealer's house
Star-Tribune staff writer

The federal government has filed a third civil claim against property linked to defendants in a major local drug case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Roberts said Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the house at 1031 S. Jackson St. was used for the possession, manufacture, storage and distribution of controlled substances.

As a result, it should be condemned and forfeited to the U.S. government, according to the complaint filed by Roberts on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Casper.

These civil actions are intended to take the profit from criminal activity, Roberts said.

They also are independent of the 46-count criminal indictment of 34 defendants including Rodolfo Jimenez, who allegedly ran an international drug-dealing operation from Casper, he said.

The federal government also has filed civil claims against Jimenez's house at 1016 S. Washington St. -- across the alley from 1031 S. Jackson St. -- and a house at 103 Tank Farm Road in Guernsey.

The Guernsey address had been occupied by Jerry Layne Carroll, who is one of the defendants in the criminal indictment filed May 19 in U.S. District Court in Casper.

The South Jackson Street residence is titled to Michael Page, who pleaded guilty May 7 in federal court to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana between Jan. 1, 2003, and April 7, 2004; and the distribution of more than five grams but less than 50 kilograms of marijuana to a person under 21.

Page is awaiting sentencing. He faces a minimum of 51 and a maximum of 108 months imprisonment and a $1.25 million fine.

The court has not ordered the forfeiture of Page's house yet, Roberts said. "Until then, we've just made an allegation."

The lawsuit traces the origins of the drug-trafficking organization, which had been operating since the early 1990s and the federal government's investigation starting in 2002.

Jimenez and others received deliveries of methamphetamine and marijuana from a group of other defendants on either a cash basis or "fronting" by other people selling the drugs and reimbursing the dealers, according to the lawsuit.

The drugs came to Wyoming and Nebraska from Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and elsewhere. Defendants would transport the proceeds from deals to Texas and Mexico, and use bank and wire services to launder some of the proceeds, according to the lawsuit.

When Page pleaded guilty May 7, he told Chief U.S. District Court Judge William Downes that Jimenez moved into the house across the alley, offered him marijuana and then offered him the opportunity to sell it.

Jimenez would front, or give on credit, marijuana to Page and collect the money a couple of weeks later, Page told the court.

But after several deals, someone broke into his garage, stole the marijuana and Jimenez hooked him through the debt he owed.

The lawsuit states that the loss amounted to nine pounds

It also recounts reports by federal agents and confidential sources watching the house that they saw drug possession, money transactions and Page arranging for juveniles to sell marijuana.

A federal warrant resulted in the seizure of 5.5 pounds of marijuana, cash, a scale and documents from the house.

After one transaction between Page and Jimenez, federal agents followed a vehicle from Jimenez's residence on Interstate 25, where it was stopped near Cheyenne. A search resulted in the seizure of $27,020 wrapped in black tape and concealed in the vehicle's trunk.

Two of the occupants, later named in the criminal indictment, denied knowledge of the money and were released, according to the lawsuit.


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