COLUMBUS — A Utica man will serve nearly seven years in prison after pleading guilty to one charge of conspiracy to distribute more than 200 kilograms of marijuana.
Jeffrey L. Justice, 53, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 80 months in prison, five years of supervised release after prison, $1,000 fine, $100 special assessment and forfeiture of $435,000 in property and possessions.
According to the criminal complaint, Justice was in possession of 235 kilograms (518 pounds) of marijuana.
Authorities were led to Justice after an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a tractor-trailer for a speeding violation on I-71 near the Licking and Franklin County line. According to court records, a K-9 unit suggested there were drugs in the trailer. After inspection, the trooper discovered $506,607 in shrink-wrapped packages stored in a cardboard box.
The driver of the truck, Hector Manuel Aviles, 26, told detectives he and Brad Williams, 58, owner of the truck, delivered 22 boxes of marijuana to an unspecified location where the marijuana was removed from the boxes and one box was filled with the cash and returned to Williams.
Williams admitted to investigators that 10 to 15 boxes were dropped off at a barn near Utica. Williams said the boxes contained marijuana but would not comment on how he knew that information.
Two Task Force Officers with the Drug Enforcement Agency, interviewed Justice at his home at 4:51 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2009, where Justice admitted 22 bales of marijuana were delivered to his residence and he paid $500,000 for them.
“I’m guilty of what’s here,” Justice told the detectives
As part of his sentencing, he will forfeit $233,846.23 in cash; a Mount Vernon Road, Newark property and three Harley-Davidson motorcycles. As long as Justice cooperates with the forfeiture agreement, which was part of his May 14, 2010, guilty plea, the government will not go after his share of the family home on Cullison Road, Utica, where the drug bust took place.
Aviles and Williams, both from California, were initially charged in Mount Vernon Municipal Court with possession of marijuana and trafficking in marijuana. Charges were dropped; however, there were no records found that federal charges were filed against the two.