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Alleged leader, others plead guilty in marijuana operation tied to Columbia death

Christopher S. Bond Federal Courthouse
Christopher S. Bond Federal Courthouse

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

A bevy of new defendants have pleaded guilty for taking part in a years-long marijuana-selling operation with ties to a Columbia killing.

Five more people admitted on Tuesday to helping sell thousands of pounds of marijuana across the country, including mid-Missouri. That includes Craig D. Smith, Jr., the Oregon man federal prosecutors believe helped run the operation.

Law enforcement have steadily expanded the federal drug case following the Dec. 2017 killing of Augustus "Gus" Roberts in Columbia. Roberts was killed during a home invasion on Lasso Circle, which the Columbia Police Department said was tied to Roberts' role as a marijuana distributor. No one has been charged for killing Roberts.

Federal authorities would later reveal that Roberts was one of dozens of people that bought and sold marijuana from Smith and several others in Oregon and California. Many have pleaded guilty, including a Columbia coffee shop owner and a state lobbyist that focused on marijuana issues.

Smith's pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The court has not yet set a sentencing date for Smith.

Smith admitted to helping buy and deliver marijuana from 2015 to 2019 from California and Oregon to 16 different states across the country, including Missouri. He and others would launder the money through several California and Texas-based businesses. One of those distributors was Roberts, who supplied several other marijuana dealers in the area.

Smith will also forfeit thousands of dollars, cars and property as part of his plea. The 14-part forfeiture order includes $314,084 in cash, four pieces of property in Oregon, three cars, two trailers, a boat and a UTV. Smith won't have to forfeit one of the pieces of property as long as he pays $150,000.

Another man, Jesse McKown of Kansas City, also pleaded guilty to helping with the operation. His plea agreement said he ran the "Kansas City cell" of the drug trafficking operation, which saw at least 3,200 kilograms of marijuana and THC vape pens.

Wesley Russell, Michael Ricketts and Ian Radich also pleaded guilty on Tuesday for various marijuana deals connected to the operation. Sentencing has not yet been set for them.

Boone / Columbia / Crime / Drugs / Homicide / Top Stories

Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.

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