Aspen man gets plea deal in federal pot trafficking case
November 16, 2009
ASPEN – As part of a plea deal with the federal government, an Aspen truck driver pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to distribute marijuana for a drug trafficking ring that spanned from Arizona to Wisconsin.
James Wingers, 65, entered the plea Nov. 5 in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. It comes after Wingers originally pleaded not guilty in January 2008.
He was arrested Dec. 7, 2007, following an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which seized some 800 pounds of pot in April 2007 in Redstone.
Also arrested was Donald Teeple, of Redstone, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Officials say that Teeple, as a member of the ring, stored marijuana at his home. He is awaiting sentencing.
Local Thomas Blank also was arrested, but was not charged.
The plea agreement, which was made public last week, says that Wingers once hauled 200 pounds of marijuana to Maine and collected $900 per pound from a “reliable marijuana distributor” on behalf of the ring. The plea agreement also mentions “confidential source 4,” who turned over drug ledgers and other information, including Wingers’ role with the ring, to investigators.
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“Wingers transported at least 1,000 kilograms but less than 3,000 kilograms of marijuana from Tucson, Arizona, to Detroit, Michigan, at (marijuana broker) Fernando Contreras-Magellanas’ direction,” the agreement says.
Wingers is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25, 2010.
He faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, and up to 40 years behind bars and a fine of $2 million, the agreement says.
The agreement notes, however, that “if the defendant provides substantial assistance to the government in the investigation or prosecution of others, the government, in its discretion, may recommend” a lighter sentence.
Wingers did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
His attorney, Stephen Komie of Chicago, said in an interview with The Aspen Times in January 2008 that “[Wingers] worked all of his life to have a piece of Aspen. He is an ordinary working American guy.”