Federal case in Sacramento alleges mail-order marijuana sales

Published: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 - 10:18 am

Every year more and more people abandon the use of mail in favor of electronic communication, and the U.S. Postal Service sinks deeper and deeper into the red.

Drug traffickers are doing what they can to fill the void.

Every year, thousands of people are arrested and millions of dollars seized from drug dealers and their customers who are using the mail to exchange money for dope.

An affidavit of Postal Inspector Roxanne LeMaire filed in Sacramento federal court earlier this month describes "the manner in which drug traffickers use the mail to conduct their illegal operations," and says that she has prepared "at least 200 search warrants related to parcel interdiction."

With respect to that particular search warrant affidavit, LeMaire had her sights on Matthew Luke Gillum of Loomis and one of a number of his alleged underlings, Jolene Chan of Roseville. They were arrested this week on charges of conspiracy, distribution of marijuana, unlawful use of the mails, and conducting their financial affairs so as to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements.

On Thursday, Gillum, 29, labeled by authorities as the brains of the outfit, was ordered held without bail as a flight risk and a danger to the community. Chan, 23, is free on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

A grand jury indictment will replace the criminal complaints they are charged in now, and then they will be arraigned and enter pleas.

An investigation initiated in August into multiple express mail packages containing large sums of money coming into the Sacramento region led to Gillum and his employees, according to LeMaire's affidavit.

It says numerous packages were being mailed to the post office box addresses of fictitious businesses, and it was determined that the boxes were controlled by Gillum and one of his associates, Grayson Westley Blanks. They and others had opened at least 14 boxes in the Sacramento area and, to date, the Postal Inspection Service "has identified over 400 express mail parcels associated with the Gillum drug trafficking organization which were mailed (to the boxes) from approximately 16 different states," the affidavit says.

In December, a package mailed from Granite Bay to New Jersey was delivered while under the control of federal authorities, and the recipient provided information to postal inspectors about Gillum's operation, the affidavit relates. The recipient said he had mailed $12,600 to a California post office box in exchange for 5 pounds of marijuana.

According to the affidavit, the marijuana sales were conducted through a website known as "Silk Road."

It "has become a popular clearinghouse for drug transactions due to the anonymous nature of the website," LeMaire wrote in the affidavit. "Users … have anonymous 'handles' or nicknames that they use to interact with other users. Interactions … take place via encrypted email."

On March 20, agents were watching Blanks when he picked up a parcel at the Rocklin Post Office.

As he left the building, the agents approached and engaged him in conversation.

Blanks, 21, who lives in Roseville, turned out to be a weak link. On May 8, he entered into a nonprosecution agreement with the government, and he is telling agents and prosecutors everything about his work for Gillum in return for not being charged.

The affidavit says that Blanks has told authorities he was paid $100 a day by Gillum to pick up packages from a wide array of post office boxes in the area, catalog the contents of the packages and report the take to Gillum. He said on average there were five to six packages a day, and an average package contained $3,000 to $4,000, but some contained anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000.

The affidavit does not indicate how much Gillum may have raked in during the life of the operation, but he favored Tiffany & Co. in the Roseville Galleria when shopping for jewelry.

In 2011 he paid $16,000 cash there for a "promise ring for his pregnant girlfriend," according to the affidavit. In February, he paid $105,887.50 in cash at the store for a diamond ring for his girlfriend, the affidavit says.

Call The Bee's Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

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