Almost as soon as a woman was jailed last year on suspicion of shipping hundreds of pounds of marijuana to Ohio in suitcases, she placed calls to a California accomplice asking about the status of proceeds from the operation, according to an updated version of a Drug Enforcement Administration complaint released Thursday.
Lisette Lee asked Christopher Cash several times about "paperwork," a phrase the DEA says is commonly used for drug proceeds, even though Cash repeatedly warned Lee to be careful what she said because the calls were being recorded, the complaint said.
Cash, 33, formerly of Los Angeles and now living in Louisville, Ky., joined the growing number of people convicted in the plot when he pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Columbus to one count of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana.
Authorities say the scheme involved 14 flights from Los Angeles to Ohio and elsewhere, distributed about 7,000 pounds of the drug and earned more than $3 million from November 2009 through April.
Another defendant, Young Ko, 36, of Los Angeles pleaded guilty Thursday to the same charge as Cash, bringing to six the number of people out of seven charged who have either pleaded guilty or indicated they will plead guilty.
Both Cash and Ko could face a minimum of 10 years in prison but may receive lesser terms based on federal sentencing guidelines. Both agreed to cooperate with investigators who are continuing to look into the scheme.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Pritchard said Thursday that charges against other individuals are a possibility.
Cash was one of four passengers who traveled from the Van Nuys, Calif., airport to Columbus on June 14 on a private chartered jet to transport 500 pounds of marijuana in 14 suitcases, DEA special agent Matt Heufelder testified in court Thursday.
Lee, who also made that trip, was arrested that day, while Cash and the other passengers were released and then later charged.
Cash also participated in a similar trip between May 30 and June 2, "also for the sole purpose of transporting several hundred pounds of marijuana to Columbus," Heufelder said.
After Lee's arrest, she called Cash in California on June 21 and told him to move items from her apartment, including a white Christian Dior bag. "You know what I'm talking about right, everything?" Lee told Cash, according to the updated DEA complaint released Thursday.
The same day she called back and asked about "paperwork," the complaint said. Cash responded that he was "dealing with it, don't ask questions."
After Lee called again that day, Cash said, "Relax, it's done," the complaint said. Lee also asked if the apartment manager had made any reference to a "scandal," and she told Cash to tell the manager not to allow any "reporters or cops" on the premises, the complaint said.
Ko participated in eight trips bringing marijuana from Los Angeles to Ohio, Heufelder said in court.
His role was to accompany marijuana couriers to make sure the drugs arrived in Ohio and to make sure money collected from the drugs' sale made it back to California safely, Heufelder said.
Ko used a private jet at least twice, commercial planes the other times, and also went at least three times from Columbus to Virginia Beach, Va., to deliver smaller amounts of marijuana, Heufelder said.
Both Cash and Ko had minor roles in the overall scheme, he said.
Ko's attorney, Dennis Belli, said Thursday his client decided it was in his best interest to plead guilty based on an evaluation of the government's evidence. Cash's attorney, Harry Reinhart, said his client decided to take responsibility for his role in the scheme.
Lee, 29, pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana. She faces 10 years to life, though under federal sentencing rules she's likely to receive the lower sentence.
Among the remaining defendants:
— Frank Edwards, 40, of Hacienda, Calif., pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 200 pounds of pot.
— David Garrett, 28, of Culver City, Calif., pleaded guilty in November to distributing more than 2,000 pounds of the drug.
— Meili Cady, 25, of Los Angeles indicated in November she will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 200 pounds of marijuana, but that plea has not been formally entered yet.
—Henry Hernandez of Los Angeles, charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana, was scheduled for an initial court appearance Thursday.