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A drug-smuggling operation that since March 2016 had shipped $22 million worth of marijuana to New York from California via hundreds of boxes was taken offline when the alleged smugglers were arrested as part of a federal investigation dubbed "Operation Green Giant," prosecutors said Thursday.
The New York Police Department and federal law enforcement agencies began their investigation of the drug and money-laundering ring in March of this year and learned it sent more than 6,600 pounds of marijuana to homes and businesses in Manhattan, the Bronx and New Rochelle, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint.
"Members of the [drug-trafficking organization] brought multiple boxes of marijuana per week to several 'stash houses' where the marijuana was further distributed to customers and dealers," the complaint states.
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Investigators watched one alleged ring member drive off with two large, brown shipping boxes in the trunk of his BMW on June 29 after a FedEx truck dropped them off at a Bronx home, according to the complaint.
The next month, investigators stopped two parcels sent from San Francisco before they could be delivered to that same Bronx home. A drug-sniffing dog indicated there were narcotics in both boxes. When investigators got a warrant and opened them up, there were a total of 39 vacuum-sealed plastic bags of marijuana that weighed about 45 pounds in big purple bins stuffed with packing peanuts.
FedEx records show that between March 2016 and July 2017, about 47 packages were mailed by the same San Francisco sender, according to the complaint.
"Yesterday's arrests were part of 'Operation Green Giant,' a Strike Force investigation targeting an organization allegedly reaping millions off the sale of marijuana in New York City," Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt said in a statement. "The alleged operation traversed the country with $22 million worth of marijuana sent to our city and the profit laundered back to California."
Searches of the defendant's apartments uncovered guns and ammunition, multiple kilograms of cocaine, hundreds of pounds of marijuana and thousands of dollars in cash, acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement, adding: "Drug trafficking organizations endanger public safety, and today's multi-agency effort has successfully halted another such alleged organization."
Ten people were charged as being involved in the ring. DEA agents arrested one of them, Hallil Tabar, at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday with $230,000 in cash, according to federal prosecutors.
Each of the defendants faces up to life in prison if convicted. Defense attorneys for most of the defendants did not immediately respond to request for comment. A defense attorney representing Kevin Umejei said his client, "Plans on fighting the accusations against him, wishes to go to trial and believes he will be vindicated through this process."