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Two more plead guilty in Missouri marijuana conspiracy

Lasso Circle homicide
ABC 17 News
Columbia police investigate at a home in the 1900 block of Lasso Circle. Augustus "Gus" Roberts was killed at his home on Dec. 11, 2017.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Two more people admitted to their roles in a nationwide marijuana-selling operation that's tied to a killing in Columbia.

Kurt Arthur Petersen and Norman James George, III pleaded guilty on Thursday at the Christopher Bond federal courthouse in Jefferson City. Petersen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and one county of money laundering. George admitted to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana.

The pleas make at least the eighth and ninth tied to the operation law enforcement have brought about since the 2017 killing of Augustus Roberts in Columbia. Roberts was shot and killed outside of a home on Lasso Circle in the Old Hawthorne neighborhood on Dec. 11. Police found a UHaul stolen from the property and several pounds of "high-grade marijuana" and more than 3,000 THC vaping devices shortly after the killing.

According to the plea agreement, Petersen began working with Craig Smith of Medford, Oregon to distribute marijuana across the county. The two "merged their respective organizations" in early 2018. A confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration called Petersen, of Cypress, Texas, one of the leaders of the drug trafficking operation alongside Smith.

Petersen admitted to arranging transport of marijuana in the thousands of pounds from California intended for cities across the United States. Two of those seized by law enforcement in 2018 included more than 6,000 pounds of the product.

Petersen also admitted that he and other members of the conspiracy put the money made from the drug sales to several corporations Petersen owned in California. The plea agreement details $3,506,335.76 worth of these transfers. Those involved also made $166,499.99 worth of payments on Petersen's credit card for travel related to marijuana sales, according to the plea.

The plea agreement said Petersen worked alongside another person in Houston, referred to as M.W., to launder the money.

Petersen agreed to forfeit a home in southwest Orergon, about an hour north of Medford.

George's plea agreement calls him a "close friend" of Roberts. George received marijuana from Roberts from 2016 to 2017. George received another 400 pounds of marijuana from another member of the conspiracy following Roberts' death.

George's attorney, Lenny Kagan, declined to comment on the plea.

The pleas come several days after Richard Burgess of Houston admitted to arranging transport of thousands of pounds of marijuana from the west coast to Texas. Burgess' and Petersen's plea agreements said that marijuana was intended to go to sixteen different states, including Missouri.

Despite the series of guilty pleas, no one has faced charges for Roberts' killing.

Osama and Nader Yanis, a father-son duo in Columbia that owned Coffee Zone, pleaded guilty to distributing marijuana. Osama Yanis also admitted to illegally possessing a firearm alongside the drugs.

Blake J. Johnson of Columbia and Christopher Bradshaw of Harrisburg each admitted to distributing marijuana. Johnson admitted to receiving product from Roberts and giving it to dealers in mid-Missouri. One of them, Bradshaw, admitted to receiving several hundred pounds of it from Johnson shortly after Roberts' death.

Johnson forfeited a home on Madison Park Drive in southwest Columbia and $190,654 in money tied to the drug sales.

Dylan Blake pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to set up drug deals.

Byron Telford of Medford admitted to driving from Connecticut en route to Oregon to collect money made from the drug sales.

Boone / Crime / Drugs / Homicide / Jefferson City / 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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