While some city officials in St. Louis continue to push for legalizing marijuana
, on the federal level, the war on drugs marches on. Three weeks ago, the battle was waged in Springfield, Missouri, where federal agents seized around 130 pounds of weed from two men — with 90 of those pounds allegedly stashed in a single U-Haul storage unit.
Along with an indictment filed Thursday, a ten-page affidavit from DEA agent Timothy Krisik details how federal investigators from California had initially been tracking a suspect named Rivel Zapata, allegedly a member of a drug trafficking organization who was directing marijuana shipments across the U.S.
Tapping Zapata's phone — and utilizing GPS on the numbers he called — led investigators to Springfield, and to Anthony Bartoskiewicz and Jonathan Williams.
During a September 30 call, writes Agent Krisik, Bartoskiewicz told Zapata "he could probably do '30' a week" and that he had "a couple of big buyers lined up," presumably around the Springfield area. Zapata allegedly responded that the flow of product was being diverted to St. Louis, where buyers were willing to pay more, and that Bartoskiewicz could expect to only receive "ten to fifteen" at a time.
(A word of warning to to casual weed purchasers, who oftentimes believe they are being clever by using code names in place of simply declaring "give me $100 of your finest Schedule 1 cannabis narcotic": Playing coy didn't do these guys any good.)
"Based on training and experience," writes Kisik, investigators came to believe that Zapata was shipping 15 to 30 pounds or kilograms of weed to Missouri. And this was good stuff, too, valued at $2,500 a pound.
On October 11, a task force officer using GPS data tracked Bartoskiewicz driving east on Interstate 44. A local deputy pulled over the suspect in Phelps County, and during a search, the deputy located an AR-15 rifle and .40 caliber pistol in the trunk. Bartoskiewicz was also carrying $7,000 in cash — but no contraband.
Still, investigators continued to monitor Bartoskiewicz and Williams. By October 25, they had enough to obtain a search warrant, and Springfield police raided the apartment shared by the two suspects.
In Williams' bedroom, officers discovered fifteen one-pound packages of marijuana and two .45 caliber handguns. In the kitchen cabinets, officers found fourteen similar packages of weed. An AR-15 rifle turned up in the other bedroom.
During the search, investigators also found a piece of paper with an address written on it, except the address was written backwards. Once again deploying their sophisticated training and experience, the federal agents un-reversed the address, which took them to a Springfield-area U-Haul location and to a unit rented under Williams' name.
According to the affidavit, inside the unit, investigators found "ten black trash bags that contained a total of 96, approximately one-pound, vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana."
Bartoskiewicz and ;Williams now face two federal charges each for possession and conspiracy to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana — charges that carry a maximum punishment of twenty years in prison and up to $1 million fine. They're also each charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
It's unclear what Zapata's status is. Although he is named in Bartoskiewicz's and Williams' indictments, available records of recent federal criminal cases do not show any indictments filed against him.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]