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Three added to Columbia marijuana conspiracy

A federal grand jury in Missouri added three people to a marijuana distribution operation spanning at least two states.

The indictment unsealed Monday adds Craig D. Smith Jr., Michael Ricketts and Eapen Thampy to the case that started in early 2018. The three are accused of working with at least four others to sell marijuana in Columbia. Smith faces the most charges of those indicted at six, including four counts of conspiring to sell marijuana and three counts of using a cell phone as part of the deals.

Smith was charged in April for allegedly trying to supply a Drug Enforcement Administration source with more than 1,800 pounds of marijuana bound for mid-Missouri. A DEA affidavit said that the investigation into Smith began after the December 2017 killing of Augustus Roberts on Lasso Circle, and that the confidential source said they worked as an intermediary between Smith and Roberts.

The unsealed indictment further connects Roberts’ death to the conspiracy involving Osama Yanis, the owner of Coffee Zone in Columbia. The indictment states that $55,690 found at Roberts’ home on Lasso Circle is part of the property forfeiture in the case.

Yanis, his son Nader, Blake Johnson, Tamra Johnson, Dylan Blake and Christopher Bradshaw were previously indicted in the case. Both Yanis and his son have pleaded guilty for their roles in the operation. The elder Yanis allegedly told police he bought a gun after what happened to Roberts.

According to court documents, Smith worked with each person, excluding Osama and Nader Yanis, at least once to arrange drug deals throughout Missouri starting in 2015.

Smith’s attorney, Daniel Russo, told ABC 17 News that Smith did not know any of the people named in the indictment except Ricketts, who is also from Oregon. Smith pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday, and Russo said he was headed back to his home in Medford, Oregon.

Russo said that Roberts’ killing was a tragedy, but that Smith had nothing to do with it, and that Smith never interacted with Roberts.

The indictment claims that Tamra and Blake Johnson laundered money gained by selling the marijuana through mortgage payments at a home in the 1800 block of Madison Park Drive. Tamra Johnson also made a $1,000 donation to Better Way Missouri, a political action committee that Thampy, a registered lobbyist, represented. Filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission show that Thampy served as executive director of Better Way Missouri from May 2016 until September 2018.

The forfeiture allegation also includes five houses in Oregon, the state where the DEA claims Smith and others grew the marijuana to be sold in Missouri.

Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said both Smith and Thampy made their first appearances at the federal court in Jefferson City. Ricketts, who the DEA says is an associate of Smith’s, has not yet been arrested, according to Ledford.

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