Suffolk man awaits sentencing on drug conspiracy

Published 9:59 pm Monday, May 1, 2017

More than a year after pleading guilty to federal charges of distributing more than 220 pounds of marijuana in a conspiracy with others, a Suffolk man and his co-conspirators are still awaiting sentencing.

Alexander Wright Ferguson, of Suffolk, was a “co-conspirator” with Michael Thomas Haas, Samuel Seth Smithwick and others, according to court documents.

Ferguson pleaded guilty on March 18, 2016, to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

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The case against Ferguson was filed in February 2016. He had previously cooperated in the case against Haas, according to court documents.

But no sentencing date has yet been set for Ferguson, Haas or Smithwick.

“Sentencings are set at the judge’s discretion, and I don’t have any further information on that and can’t speculate as to the reason for the delays,” Don Connelly, a public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina, wrote in an emailed response to questions about Ferguson’s case.

Ferguson was released after his guilty plea on the conditions that he submit to supervision, surrender his passport, obey all laws, remain in the eastern districts of North Carolina and Virginia, and avoid contact with Haas, among other conditions. He was also ordered to forfeit $250,000 to the U.S. government.

According to the court documents, Ferguson wore wires to record conversations with Haas while the two played golf together in Hawaii. He also agreed to have his phone conversations with Haas recorded.

Prior to October 2012, Ferguson was sending bulk shipments of marijuana through the U.S. Postal Service from California to North Carolina and Virginia for distribution, according to the court documents.

But then in 2012, when Ferguson and Haas traveled together on a private jet to celebrate Oktoberfest in Germany, they discussed the idea of using jets to transport marijuana from the West Coast to North Carolina, according to the court documents.

Later that month, Ferguson was attending Haas’ 50th birthday party in Pinehurst, N.C. Haas told Ferguson he had leased a private jet to carry Ferguson to California the next morning to pick up marijuana, according to the criminal complaint. The two agreed that Haas would receive half of the net proceeds from the distribution.

The next morning, Haas drove Ferguson and Haas’s daughter to the airport in Pinehurst, N.C. The jet landed in Lexington, Ky., for Haas’s daughter to get off for school. Ferguson then flew on to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where Ferguson had already contacted his marijuana supplier, according to the court documents.

The next morning, Ferguson and Smithwick boarded the same jet with 100 pounds of marijuana. They planned to fly back to Pinehurst, but the jet was diverted to Suffolk’s airport because of bad weather in Pinehurst.

Ferguson and Smithwick rented a car and drove from Suffolk to the Outer Banks. The marijuana was stored in a home Ferguson rented in Nags Head, according to the documents, and Ferguson and Smithwick then distributed the marijuana to individuals, some of whom had traveled from other parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

Haas then leased another jet for Ferguson and Smithwick to fly back to South Lake Tahoe with the money to pay for the 100 pounds of marijuana that had been provided on credit, according to the court documents.

A second trip occurred in October 2012. Ferguson and Smithwick were picked up by a limousine in Tahoe and transported to Reno, Nev., from where they flew the 100 pounds of marijuana to Pinehurst. Ferguson and Smithwick later distributed the marijuana in North Carolina and Virginia, according to the court documents.

After they had collected about $170,000 from distributing the marijuana, Ferguson and Smithwick drove to Haas’ home in Pinehurst.

The third trip occurred sometime after Oct. 31, 2012, according to the court documents. On this trip, the 100 pounds of marijuana was stored in golf bags and boxes that had been wrapped to look like gifts.

Ferguson and Smithwick, according to the court documents, distributed about 40 pounds quickly and had 60 pounds left over, which they stored at Haas’s house. Smithwick continued to deliver marijuana after Ferguson left North Carolina. Haas later called Ferguson to come get the rest of the marijuana, which Haas later drove to Suffolk and gave to Ferguson, who allegedly distributed it to his customers.

A fourth trip took place on Jan. 10, 2014, according to the court documents. Ferguson allegedly contacted Haas and told him he needed a jet to get the drugs from San Francisco, Calif., to Pinehurst. He was able to get only 75 pounds of marijuana, which he and Smithwick allegedly distributed to their customers, who traveled to Suffolk from North Carolina and other parts of Virginia to pick up the marijuana.

In June 2015, Ferguson consented to recording conversations with Haas. He wore recording devices while he and Haas played golf in Hawaii. Haas allegedly discussed the past trips with Ferguson, and Haas agreed to pay for a future trip as well and to split the proceeds with Ferguson, according to the documents.

Ferguson placed at least three recorded phone calls to Haas discussing marijuana transportation and delivery. In the final one, he told Haas that a Transportation Security Administration officer had seized $165,000 from him at the Raleigh-Durham airport, and the two discussed it being marijuana proceeds.

According to the court documents, bank account and credit card records confirm cash deposits as well as payments for the rentals of jets and houses that correspond with the dates of the trips.