Federal authorities have charged 10 people in connection with a massive marijuana trafficking operation run out of a home in Middle Village in a massive investigation that reportedly stemmed from a 2008 traffic stop in the neighborhood, federal prosecutors said last week.
Walter Baus, 39, of Middle Village and Queens residents Kim Ki Joo, 52; Mersim Kolenovic, 29; and Slobodan Pavicevic, 29, were among those arrested earlier this month and charged with numerous counts of importing and distributing more than 100,000 pounds of marijuana worth at least $100 million from Canada between 2003 and 2009, according to an indictment filed in Brooklyn federal court.
The others charged in the case are Randolf Square, 44, of Hogansburg, N.Y.; David Sunday, 37, of Quebec, Canada; Denise Cook, 26, of Ft. Covington, N.Y.; Guy Gantz, 35, of Israel; Andrew Kagan, 32, of Ridgefield, N.J.; and Carmelo Ruiz, 38, of Medford, N.Y.
If convicted, Square and Sunday, identified in the indictment as the ringleaders of the operation, face up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said. The other defendants face a maximum of 10 years if convicted, the New York Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Square, Sunday and Baus were held without bail after a hearing last week, prosecutors said. Kolenovic and Pavicevic were each released on $250,000 bail, Joo and Cook were released on $300,000 bail and Ruiz was released on $400,000 bail, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The marijuana was brought into the country through the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation using a variety of methods, including vehicles with secret compartments, prosecutors said. The ring operated from a nondescript home on 80−04 Penelope Ave., the indictment said. Prosecutors would not say where the drugs were sold, citing an ongoing investigation.
News reports indicated the case broke when Kolenovic was pulled over for a traffic violation in Queens and police discovered drugs in the vehicle.
The U.S. Attorney’s office would not confirm this detail, but a criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney’s office indicates Kolenovic was arrested Feb. 20, 2008, for driving a 2006 Lexus without license plates.
Police found 18 Ziploc bags of marijuana in the car’s trunk, the complaint said. Kolenovic was charged with criminal possession of marijuana and driving without a license. Pavicevic, a passenger in the car, was also arrested, the complaint said.
Next−door neighbor Robert Klug said he had heard news reports of the drug bust, but did not know anything himself.
“It’s a quiet neighborhood,” he said, noting the talk of the arrests came as a surprise.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@tim
©2009 Community News Group
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