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City awarded part of drug bust proceeds

Allison T. Williams

A five-year federal investigation into a drug ring that stretched between Virginia and Arizona landed the Suffolk Police Department a check for $51,700 on Friday.

Paul L. McNulty, the U.S. Attorney based in Norfolk, handed out checks to 13 Virginia law enforcement agencies, part of a $673,033 sharing of assets from the investigation dubbed “Operation Weed B Truckin.” Suffolk Police Chief William Freeman accepted the check.

Fourteen people, including 10 from Virginia, have been convicted on federal charges stemming from the investigation, in which federal, state and local authorities seized more than 11,500 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $15 to $20 million, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office. None of the people involved were from Suffolk.

According to the release, the crime ring used commercial trucking companies to transport marijuana from Arizona to Norfolk, New York, Illinois, Georgia and North Carolina. Members of the organization also formed several shell corporations for money laundering activities and to hide assets from law enforcement officials, the release indicated.

Suffolk received a portion of the seizure proceeds because a Suffolk investigator is permanently assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s task force in Norfolk, said Lt. Debbie George, public information officer for the Suffolk Police Department.

Other law enforcement agencies in Virginia that received funds Friday include Chesapeake, Farmville, James City County, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach; Cumberland, Southampton and York counties; and the Virginia State Police.

Money distributed through the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Program is used to fund law-enforcement activities in the respective localities.

Freeman hasn’t determined exactly how the city will use the money, said George.

“The department will reinvest those funds into whatever resources are needed to continue to keep our city safe,” she said. “The true rewards of this scenario are the arrests that were made, drugs that were kept off the street and criminal activity that was halted as a result of the investigation.

“The fact that Suffolk and other Hampton Roads jurisdictions received funds for additional crime-reduction initiatives, is a pleasant added bonus.”

Contact Williams at Allison.williams@suffolknewsherald.com