Meadville Tribune

Local News

June 14, 2012

Marijuana trafficking network is busted

MEADVILLE — Criminal charges have been filed against nine people — including five from Crawford County — linked to an organization allegedly responsible for shipping more than 200 pounds of marijuana from Texas to northwestern Pennsylvania.

As much as 20 pounds of marijuana per month during a two-year period were shipped into the region for distribution, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

“This was a significant organization on many levels,” Attorney General Linda Kelly said in announcing filing of charges, “involving cross-country shipment of large quantities of high-grade marijuana, the movement of more than $100,000 in drug payments and the long-distance coordination of numerous drug deals over many years.”

While charges in the case were filed Wednesday with Magisterial District Judge Lincoln Zilhaver in Saegertown, Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office confirmed to a Tribune reporter none of the suspects were in custody as of Wednesday afternoon.

In conjunction with the filing of charges in Pennsylvania, authorities in Texas are executing search and arrest warrants in a continuing investigation to identify the original sources for the marijuana involved in this case, according to Kelly.

The grand jury investigation, known as “Operation Texas Twins,” identified two brothers — Marcelino Rodriguez, of Eddy, Texas, and Miguel Rodriguez, of Corpus Christi — as coordinating the transportation and distribution of the marijuana, Kelly said.

According to the grand jury, Miguel Rodriguez operated from Texas, communicating with his brother Marcelino and others by phone to arrange marijuana shipments to Pennsylvania and transfer money back to Texas.

The Rodriguez brothers allegedly were assisted by Robert Karl Conaway, who is accused of assisting in the distribution of marijuana in and around Crawford County, according to Kelly.

“This was a coordinated effort to move significant quantities of drugs into communities across northwestern Pennsylvania which continued even after key figures were arrested and jailed,” Kelly said.

Marcelino Rodriguez and Robert Conaway were arrested in Crawford County in August 2010, on unrelated warrants, but the two allegedly attempted to continue their drug organization from inside jail.

The grand jury found Rodriguez and Conaway made numerous telephone calls from inside the Crawford County jail, which were recorded for monitoring by law enforcement.

Agents from the Attorney General’s Office and Pennsylvania State Police used information from those calls, along with surveillance, confidential informants and the review of financial records from wire transfer services to identify others who allegedly assisted in the operation.

Adam Wood of Venango is accused of assisting in the distribution of marijuana, including the retrieval of drugs and cash from a vehicle that had been left in the parking lot of a Meadville area motel in Meadville when Conaway and Rodriguez were arrested in 2010. Both Conaway and Rodriguez had spent time behind bars here.

In phone calls recorded at the Crawford County jail following those arrests of Conaway and Rodriguez in 2010, Conaway, Rodriguez and Wood allegedly discussed the status of drug sales, including the fact Wood had six pounds of marijuana remaining and Miguel Rodriguez still was owed $4,000, Kelly said. They also allegedly reviewed the prices that should be charged for different quantities of marijuana.

Conaway and Rodriguez were subsequently released from jail after resolution of their 2010 unrelated cases.

According to the grand jury, five others also were involved:

-Elizabeth Bevilheimer of Saegertown — the girlfriend of Adam Wood — assisted in the recovery of the car Conaway and Rodriguez were driving when they were arrested. Bevilheimer also allegedly was involved in at least eight wire transfers of money to Texas, totaling more than $15,000, and was overheard in recorded prison phone calls complaining that she was not getting enough money for her work.

-Pamela Barrientos of Eddy, Texas, allegedly was a distributor of funds for the organization — receiving thousands of dollars in wire transfers and then communicating by phone with Marcelino Rodriguez about how much money different participants should be making from the drug transactions. Calls between Rodriguez and others also included instructions to “send all the Pennsylvania money to Pamela.”

-Laura Rodriguez of Chilton, Texas — sister of Marcelino and Miguel Rodriguez — allegedly assisted in the transfer of drug money. She was heard on intercepted prison telephone calls with Marcelino Rodriguez discussing the sale price of marijuana being sold in Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia.

-Jeramie Ebbert of Meadville served as the recipient of marijuana shipments from Texas and assisted with the sale of drugs to street-level buyers.

-Silas Mark Deets of Venango was allegedly paid to receive shipments of marijuana from Texas which were arranged by Conaway. One of those deliveries to Deets, containing approximately 4.5 kilos or 10 pounds of marijuana, was intercepted by U.S. postal inspectors. Deets was allegedly paid with cash and drugs to pick up the packages.

When apprehended, the defendants will be prosecuted in Crawford County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Douglas J. Wright of the Attorney General’s Drug Strike Force Section.

Kelly said Pennsylvania State Police, Crawford County District Attorney’s Office, Erie County District Attorney’s Office, Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, the Northwest Pennsylvania Drug Task Force, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force assisted with the investigation.

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