HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - New court documents reveal an elaborate plan to ship marijuana from California to Hampton Roads through the United States Postal Service.
Throughout the months-long investigation that stretched across the country, authorities viewed bank accounts, monitored delivered packages and took reports about a suspect and money smelling like marijuana.
The investigation started in April 2017 when K-9 police dogs alerted authorities of possible drugs inside two packages being sent through the mail.
Court records say one package smelled of marijuana and came from Virginia Beach.
Combined, the two packages contained more than $16,000 that was hidden in sneakers, according to records.
In another incident, records say in May 2017 one of the suspects was stopped at the Norfolk International Airport with more than $24,000 on his person. He was arrested a year later for trafficking cannabis after being accused of having 264 pounds of marijuana in his luggage in Illinois.
The suspect and others are accused of using the United States Postal Service's “Click N Ship” to mail various packages to Hampton Roads.
“According to the weights from the U.S. Postal Office, the addresses in Hampton Roads area received over 500 pounds of packages,” the documents say.
A second suspect, Jamel Stokes of Virginia Beach, was arrested for drug trafficking and money laundering in recent days. He was released on bond.
Throughout the course of the investigation, authorities looked at various deposits and withdrawals of thousands of dollars into bank accounts in Virginia Beach and California.
A bank teller also told authorities the money Stokes deposited during one transaction smelled of marijuana.
Records say the packages were being delivered to addresses in Virginia Beach and Yorktown through the online USPS service.
In November 2017, federal authorities seized 12 pounds of marijuana; the next day, they discovered another package containing six pounds of marijuana.
In June 2018, law enforcement involved a cooperating defendant who met with Stokes and recorded the conversation.
Court documents say a cooperating defendant mentioned Stokes turning himself in, to which Stokes replied, “If I turn myself in, they are not going to let you.” However, the audio cut off and did not capture the last part of the statement.
Stokes is facing possession with intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to launder drug proceeds, unlawful money transactions and structuring proceeds of a drug conspiracy.