Federal authorities have shut down a major drug-trafficking operation that mailed large quantities of marijuana from several Arlington post offices to St. Croix, Justice Department officials announced Thursday.
Eleven people were arrested Thursday morning in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including a territorial court marshal. Six others were arrested last week in North Texas.
Each faces charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana or conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to federal court documents, starting in November 2009, more than 120 Express Mail parcels weighing about 12 pounds each were sent to at least six locations in St. Croix.
Federal authorities say at least 110 inbound parcels contained money orders. Seventy-eight contained $385,055 in money orders, according to federal documents.
"These arrests culminate a more than two-year investigation into the shipping of large quantities of marijuana from Arlington ... to St. Croix," U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas said in a news release.
Arrested April 3 in North Texas were Neil Nick Rene, 35, and Laura Louise Ryan-Rene, 42, both of Duncanville; Carl Gayheart Schou, 47, and Tanisha Jernae Williams, 28, both of Fort Worth; and Sylvia Francisca Granville, 44, and Eddie House Jr., 47, hometowns not listed.
Rene was named as the organization's primary participant, according to a news release.
Parcels containing money orders were sent to various North Texas addresses, including five in Fort Worth, two in Dallas, and one each in Arlington and Duncanville, according to federal authorities.
Postal inspectors began investigating the organization in December 2009 after receiving a tip about the parcels. Using an Immigration and Customs Enforcement drug dog, authorities found a parcel containing illegal drugs at the American Airlines cargo facility at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and continued to monitor the group.
"These arrests should serve as a warning that postal inspectors will not tolerate the nation's mail system being misused to traffic narcotics," Randall C. Till, postal inspector in charge of the Fort Worth division, said in the news release.
If convicted on federal drug charges, each suspect faces up to 40 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
Their trials will be in Fort Worth.
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