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Feds indict 11 on drug trafficking charges

November 07, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A federal indictment unsealed Monday accuses 11 people of trafficking more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and more than 500 grams of cocaine in the Tri-State area since 2001.

The indictment, which was returned Sept. 26, seeks the forfeiture of $1 million in proceeds from drug sales.

Hagerstown Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department said that about 75 law enforcement officers fanned out across the Tri-State area Monday morning, armed with search, seizure and arrest warrants.

The U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore said in a press release that the defendants were arrested in Hagerstown; Williamsport; Martinsburg, W.Va.; and Chambersburg, Pa.

Some of their residences were searched, along with a campsite at McMahon's Mill Recreation in Williamsport and an automotive business, Advanced Auto Customizers in Chambersburg, the news release says.

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Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, didn't know how the campsite and the automotive business were connected to the case.

"The indictment of these 11 defendants for allegedly operating a large marijuana and cocaine distribution ring in western Maryland, West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania could only have resulted from the outstanding cooperative efforts of state, local and federal law enforcement agencies over the past year," Rosenstein says in the release.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to distribute marijuana and cocaine from 2001 to September 2006.

It's not clear exactly how much marijuana and cocaine the defendants were alleged to have distributed.

A footnote in the indictment says the $1 million in forfeiture money is based on $850 per pound for 1,200 pounds of marijuana over five years.

Murphy could not confirm that as the amount of marijuana allegedly involved.

One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so 1,200 pounds of marijuana would be about 545 kilograms.

One gram equals .035 ounces, so 500 grams is about 17.5 ounces.

The 11 people charged in the indictment are:

· Alexander Ringus, 31, of Williamsport, aka "Sonny"

· Raymond O. Leech, 38, of Hagerstown, aka "Neil"

· Solomon D. Goss, 37, of Chambersburg, aka "Mark"

· Simon Brown, 41, of Los Angeles, aka "Clive Burrows" and "Robert Lee Smith"

· Thomas J. Wackman, 46, of Washington County, aka "Reef"

· James Bradley Larocca, 29, of Boonsboro, aka "Brad Larocca"

· Erin Elizabeth Ringus, 32, of Williamsport

· Peter Joseph Ringus, 27, of Hagerstown

· Jeffrey Lynn Hovis, 46, of Boonsboro

· Steven Barnhart, 30, of Greencastle, Pa.

· Kasandra Sue Wriston-Rulison, 37, of Glengary, W.Va.

If the government can't recover the $1 million, the indictment says, it will seek to collect property to make up the difference, including two residences - 15820 Clear Spring Road in Williamsport and 17927 Herr Lane in Boonsboro.

The indictment doesn't explain the connection of the residences to the case. Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records list Alexander Joseph Ringus III and Erin Elizabeth Ringus as the owners of 15820 Clear Spring Road and Jeffrey L. and Shannon Hovis as the owners of 17927 Herr Lane.

According to the Washington County Sheriff's Department, the investigation started about a year ago when deputies got tips of drug activity in the Williamsport area.

The information was passed to the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, which includes police in Hagerstown and Washington County and the Washington County state's attorney's office.

From there, a Tri-State drug task force that also includes the Maryland State Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration got involved.

Alexander Ringus, Erin Ringus, Hovis, Goss, Leech, Barnhart and Wriston-Rulison appeared Monday in U.S. District Court.

Barnhart is scheduled to have a detention hearing today. Alexander Ringus, Leech, Goss and Hovis are scheduled to have detention hearings Wednesday.

Erin Ringus and Wriston-Rulison were released to the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.

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