CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Eric Mark Giles, a UNC Charlotte student accused of leading a marijuana distribution ring that generated more than $1 million in drug proceeds over 2 1/2 years, was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in prison.
More than 220 pounds of marijuana were distributed through the U.S. mail by the UNCC-area drug ring, federal authorities said.
U.S. District Judge Bob Conrad noted during the sentencing that Giles was the leader of what the judge described as a “very sophisticated network of marijuana distribution.”
A federal jury in Charlotte convicted Giles, 40, and Kyle Corsi, 38, in August 2010 for their roles in the drug organization.
Corsi, who was accused of helping sell the marijuana, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison.
When Giles and Corsi were convicted, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said federal authorities had dismantled a major drug trafficking organization that had exploited financial institutions to promote their scheme.
Following Thursday’s sentencings, Tompkins said: “Giles’ and Corsi’s lengthy prison sentences are the final chapter of a complex drug scheme that distributed large amounts of marijuana through the university area of Charlotte and concealed and laundered the profits using our financial institutions.”
The federal prosecutor credited Thursday’s outcome to the effort and cooperation from all law enforcement agencies involved in this case.
“We will use every tool in our arsenal, from drug and firearm laws to money laundering…statutes, to dismantle and defeat these drug schemes,” Tompkins said.
During a three day trial in 2010, federal prosecutors presented evidence that Giles was primarily responsible for the shipment of high-grade marijuana from Santa Cruz, Calif., to distributors based in the university area.
Corsi and others received and then sold the marijuana for about $5,000 a pound, authorities said.
The prosecution evidence showed that members of the drug organization used bank accounts at Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank to launder their drug proceeds by making large cash deposits at banks in North Carolina and cash withdrawals at banks in California.
The evidence at trial included numerous seized packages of marijuana sent by Express Mail through the U.S. Postal Service in the name of Giles’ front company, Norcal Athelectics (sic) Inc., prosecutors said.
Postal surveillance photographs showed Giles shipping the marijuana-laden packages to addresses controlled by the drug ring in the university area, authorities said.
Bank surveillance photos introduced as evidence during the trial showed Corsi depositing drug proceeds at banks in North Carolina and Giles making cash withdrawals at banks in California, prosecutors said.
Giles and Corsi coordinated the shipment and receipt of the marijuana and the financial transactions by text messages, according to prosecutors.
Giles and Corsi were convicted of conspiracy to distribute 220 pounds or more of marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Giles also was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and being a felon in possession of a gun.
Five other members of the drug and money laundering conspiracy had already been sentenced for their roles, authorities said.
Barrett Fischer, 30, of Charlotte, was sentenced to 23 months in prison.
Ryan Grubb, 27, of Charlotte, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Joyce Tedder, 26, of Charlotte, was sentenced to time served.
William Skach, 27, of Asheville, was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
Keith Kraszewski, 29, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was sentenced to 41 months in prison.