Published: February 1, 2023, 07:55 am.
Last update: February 1, 2023, 8:15 a.m.
Damario Kentel King was sentenced this week to 6.5 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The 35-year-old Mobile, Alaska resident admitted to smuggling 400-700 kilograms of marijuana between January 2018 and May 2021 – enough to smoke more than 3 million joints.
King was part of a complex criminal operation that regularly smuggled kilos of high-quality cannabis from California, where it is legal, to Alabama, where it is not. The profits of the operation were then laundered in a variety of unique ways – including the purchase and redemption of casino chips.
According to prosecutors in court documents obtained WALA-TV/mobile, The investigation began in 2019 and continued for months until police in Prichard, Alaska, gathered enough evidence to pull over the car in which they discovered thousands in cash and the driver, King, who offered conflicting accounts of the loot.
So far, 14 suspects have been indicted in the operation, including Mohammed Zohair Adi, who this week became the ninth suspect to plead guilty to federal drug charges.
Their money reeked of pot
Federal prosecutions of marijuana offenses are relatively rare. However, according to WALAFederal authorities were drawn to the case by the level of criminal sophistication and the money involved. According to King’s plea agreement, he received more than $1 million in unexplained cash income in 2017 and 2018, years in which he filed no federal income tax returns.
Prosecutors say King and other couriers smuggled marijuana on commercial flights from California to Mobile and then transferred the money back to people and entities in California. Some of these entities were involved in the real estate and cannabis business. One of them was a fictitious company called Investors Inc., which Adi set up in 2012 to resemble a construction company.
Investors Inc. according to prosecutors, she received more than S100,000 in deposits in Mobile, Pensacola and California between October 2019 and January 2020, including some cash that bank employees reported literally smelled like marijuana.
The conspirators also bought and cashed out casino chips with their winnings and deposited the money into California bank accounts. WALA he did not say whether court records revealed how much money was laundered through the casinos or which casinos facilitated those transactions.
According to WALA, court records describe a complex money laundering operation involving “structured” financial transactions of less than $10,000, in which banks are required to report the activity to the government.
The investigation led to multiple seizures of cash and marijuana. During one of these raids, King and his co-conspirators were arrested with 125 pounds of marijuana—packaged in vacuum-sealed bags hidden in suitcases—when they returned to Mobile from a trip to San Francisco.
The 14 defendants also include Jervoris Scarbrough, who Mobile police charged in December with murder in connection with a 2014 shooting, according to WALA.