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Man to serve 3.5 years

A Suffolk man will serve three and a half years in prison for his role in a marijuana distribution conspiracy.

Alexander Wright Ferguson pleaded guilty in March 2016 to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

According to court documents, Ferguson sent bulk shipments of marijuana through the U.S. Postal Service from California to North Carolina from 2010 to 2012. But then in 2012, he and his co-conspirators starting using leased private jets to transport the drugs.

Ferguson’s co-conspirators included Michael Thomas Haas, Samuel Seth Smithwick and others. Ferguson cooperated in the case against Haas prior to being charged himself.

In 2012, Ferguson and Haas traveled together on a private jet to Germany, and they discussed the idea of using jets to transport marijuana from the West Coast to North Carolina.

Later that month, Haas told Ferguson he had leased a private jet to carry Ferguson to California the next morning to pick up marijuana. The two agreed Haas would receive half of the net proceeds.

The next morning, Ferguson flew to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where he had already contacted his marijuana supplier. The following morning, he and Smithwick boarded the same jet with 100 pounds of marijuana. They planned to fly back to Pinehurst, N.C., but the jet was diverted to Suffolk’s airport because of bad weather.

Ferguson and Smithwick later flew back to South Lake Tahoe to pay for the marijuana. Later that month, another trip occurred, which also transported 100 pounds of marijuana to North Carolina and Virginia.

On a third trip, another 100 pounds was stored in golf bags and boxes that had been gift-wrapped.

Another trip in January 2014 transported 75 pounds of marijuana from San Francisco, Calif., to Pinehurst. It was distributed to customers at least partially in Suffolk.

Four people, including a local pastor, wrote letters of support to the judge prior to sentencing.

The Rev. Tony Peaks, senior pastor of Open Door Church, wrote that he has known the Ferguson family almost as long as he has been in Suffolk.

He first got to know Alexander Ferguson, whom family and friends call “Lex,” through the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association, he wrote.

“Lex and my son played on numerous teams together from the age of 5 or 6 up to 13,” Peaks wrote. He said he coached the team on which the young Ferguson played at the Bronco level.

“He always respected me and was always open to talk with me,” Peaks wrote. “I have always tried to stay connected with Lex over the years. Lex and I have always talked honestly, which I appreciate. He has never tried to hide or make excuses for his life and his failures to me, but has owned them. Lex is truly a young man of great potential that made some bad decisions and chose the wrong friends. I believe Lex is on the right path now, although this does not dispel his actions.”

Another letter of support was written by Candy Dennis, the supervising broker for Ferguson and a vice president of Long & Foster Real Estate. She said Ferguson interviewed with her in March 2016 to become a licensed real estate professional in her Norfolk office.

“He is respectful, responsible, has excellent people skills and has had seven settlements since he joined our firm. Lex also attends all training and is the first to offer his support for office functions. I am aware of the charges against Lex, and while I do not condone such actions, I do not feel this represents the Lex that we at Long & Foster have come to know.”

Other reference letters state that Ferguson is engaged and has begun taking classes toward a master’s degree in business administration.