Marijuana ring defendant pleads guilty

By Joe Beck

The eighth of nine defendants in a marijuana distribution and money-laundering ring that extended from Shenandoah County to south Texas has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court.

Ernest Randal Fitzgerald was part of a ring that transported at least 220 pounds of marijuana from Texas to Virginia in a period from spring 2008 to March 2011, according to court documents.

A statement of facts signed by Fitzgerald states he began his participation in the drug ring in mid-2009 when he bought several pounds of marijuana from Jerimiah Scott Martin of New Market at a cost of $1,000 to $1,100 per pound.

“Fitzgerald typically used some of the marijuana himself that he purchased from Jerimiah, and then distributed the rest,” the statement of facts stated. “During the course of the conspiracy, Fitzgerald would take delivery of between two and five pounds of marijuana at a time from Jerimiah Martin.”

Martin’s name also appears in a section of the indictment that lists almost 50 transactions in which he wired several hundred dollars each time from Woodstock and other Virginia communities to recipients in Texas.

Jerimiah Martin’s father, Luther Martin, would haul the marijuana from Texas to Virginia in a tractor trailer that Luther Martin drove as part of a normal job, according to the statement of facts.

Fitzgerald sold 2 pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant on June 23, 2010 and was paid $2,400 for it, the statement of facts reported.

A notice of forfeiture filed with the indictments suggests that the conspirators earned a considerable amount of money before their arrests. The forfeiture notice calls for federal officials to seize at least $3.39 million in cash stemming from drug dealing or money laundering.

The forfeiture list also includes five guns and an unspecified amount of real estate at 7933 Orkney Grade in Mount Jackson.

Jerimiah Martin pleaded guilty on Nov. 7 to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

A statement of facts in Jerimiah Martin’s case states that he entered into the conspiracy with the other defendants after moving from Texas to Staunton in early 2008. The marijuana was bought for an average of $200 a pound in Texas and sold in Virginia for about $800 a pound, according to the statement of facts.

Law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at Martin’s residence in New Market on Oct. 19, 2010 and found a double-barreled shotgun, the statement of facts reported.

The statement of facts said Martin told law enforcement officers that he kept the gun in the house “to protect himself from another member of the conspiracy who had previously threatened to kill people both inside and outside the conspiracy because he believed he was owed money.”

Martin is still awaiting sentencing at an undetermined date.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com