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Kansas City, Kan., men convicted in million-dollar drug-trafficking case

Updated: 2014-01-05T05:44:33Z

By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS

The Kansas City Star

Two Kansas City, Kan., men were among three people convicted in federal court last week for their roles in a $28 million cocaine trafficking ring.

Marvin Lee Ellis and Vernon Brown, both 36, were convicted Friday.

Evidence presented during the trial contended the men were part of a drug-trafficking scheme that in October 2010 came under investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The traffickers employed couriers to transport cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to Kansas City, and money from the Kansas City area to be smuggled into Mexico.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release that investigators seized 194 firearms, 29 vehicles, 26 kilograms of cocaine, three kilograms of crack and more than $2 million in cash.

Ellis was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, three counts of distributing crack cocaine, one count of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and one count of maintaining a residence (at 921 Haskell Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.) in furtherance of drug trafficking. He was also convicted on two counts for firearm possession.

Brown was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute powder and crack cocaine.

Prosecutors presented evidence that undercover Kansas City, Kan., narcotics officers bought crack cocaine several times in February and March 2012 from Ellis at the Haskell Avenue residence and other locations. Prosecutors also presented evidence that Brown purchased and sold quantities of crack cocaine.

The third person, Robert Vasquez, 40, of Socorro, Texas, was identified as a courier and convicted for money laundering.

On Jan. 13, 2012, investigators saw Vasquez meet other conspirators at a commercial trucking center in Edwardsville and place a bag inside his semitrailer truck, the release said. Investigators followed him to the Pratt, Kan., area, where the Kansas Highway Patrol stopped him and seized a black duffel bag containing $549,495 in U.S. currency.

All three men face penalties of up to life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

In addition to the DEA, Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, the Kansas Highway Patrol and the U.S. attorney’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Internal Revenue Service worked on the case.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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