WASHINGTON Nov. 17, 2010 -- It was a cocaine smuggling operation that was brilliant in its simplicity: private jets were chartered to fly cocaine from Los Angeles to Baltimore. Then millions in cash made the return trip the same way, hidden on the private flights in suitcases, backpacks and even in a microwave oven.
It worked for months, the Drug Enforcement Administration says, with the Hollywood- based ring moving more than 390 kilograms of cocaine and well over $4 million in drug cash from coast to coast.
But on Tuesday a federal grand jury indicted 14 defendants, including the charter pilot, on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
Five of the suspects were arrested, and the DEA seized 298 kilograms of cocaine and $1.1 million, along with two Aston-Martins, a Mercedes Benz, and a BMW. The seven-month investigation, conducted by a task force of federal and local law enforcement, was dubbed "Operation Snowbird."
Law enforcement started moving in on the drug ring in September, according to court documents, when a charter flight from L.A. to Baltimore stopped to re-fuel in Salinas, Kan. Authorities discovered suspect Charles Ransom allegedly was carrying 48 kilograms of cocaine. Ransom, and another defendant allegedly flew with $1.245 million drug cash proceeds on a chartered flight from Baltimore to Los Angeles on Sept. 21.
On Oct. 1, another suspect, Marlon Parris, allegedly working with the drug ring was carrying 118 kilograms of cocaine during a charter flight from Los Angeles to Baltimore. Parris was allegedly carrying nearly a quarter million dollars in cash on the return trip on Oct. 7 when the money was seized by authorities at the Phoenix International Airport.
The organization allegedly shipped approximately 34 kilograms of cocaine to Baltimore and brought drug proceeds back to Los Angeles on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. On Nov. 2, authorities at Ontario International Airport seized that money, taking $763,815 in drug proceeds in a suitcase, another $24,366 hidden in a backpack, and $40,000 hidden in the plane's microwave oven.
Hollywood Coke Ring Busted By Feds
The indictment charges that Ricky James Brascom, as known as "DP," 28, formerly of Hollywood, was the leader of the drug trafficking ring. Brascom, pilot Leonardo Concepcion and two alleged drug couriers were arrested. Nine suspects remain at large.
"The individuals indicted today have been brought to justice as the result of the joint effort by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies spanning from Los Angeles to Baltimore," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. "This operation demonstrates the poisoning lure of drugs and money that continue to impact our communities."