Columbia, California men plead guilty to marijuana trafficking


Notice: Historical Content

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Date: May 5, 2020


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Columbia, Missouri, man and a California man pleaded guilty in federal court today to marijuana trafficking that involved the death of another Columbia man, who was murdered during a home invasion in which hundreds of pounds of marijuana and thousands of THC vaporizer cartridges in a rented U-Haul truck were stolen.

Nawel Girma of Columbia and Cody Brent Davis, also known as "Penny" of Redding, California pleaded guilty in separate appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps Jr.

Girma pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and one count of being a user of a controlled substance in possession of firearms.

Davis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to today's plea agreement, Girma conspired with Augustus Roberts, co-defendant Blake Jeffrey Johnson, 24, also of Columbia, and others to distribute marijuana between Oct. 1, 2016, and March 15, 2018.

Roberts was murdered at his residence on Dec. 10, 2017. At the time of Roberts' murder, a U-Haul truck rented by Johnson had been parked in the driveway of Roberts' residence, but was stolen during the home invasion. Prior to its theft, the U-Haul truck contained approximately 800 pounds of marijuana belonging to Roberts and his drug enterprise.

Columbia police officers found the U-Haul truck on Dec. 11, 2017. Officers seized six boxes that contained a total of 94 gallon-sized bags of marijuana, five boxes that contained a total of 3,199 THC vaporizer cartridges, and three electric currency bill counters.

Officers executed search warrants at Girma's residence on March 15, 2018. Officers seized $130,774 in admitted marijuana proceeds, concentrated THC products, more than 40 Xanax pills, a distribution amount of marijuana, and three firearms – a Remington Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, and a H&K .40-caliber pistol, and a loaded Glock .40-caliber pistol. Girma admitted that he paid between $1,000 and $1,400 per pound of marijuana, so that the cash seized equates to approximately 52 kilograms of marijuana.

According to today's plea agreement, Davis participated in a separate conspiracy to distribute marijuana in Boone County, Missouri, and elsewhere from Jan. 1, 2017, to Feb. 8, 2019.

Davis admitted that he organized and led a conspiracy to distribute marijuana from California and Oregon to locations throughout the United States, including supplying the marijuana to Roberts that was stolen during the home invasion.

Davis and his co-conspirators regularly delivered marijuana and THC-filled vaping devices to customers in Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. On Nov. 20, 2018, law enforcement seized 4,260 pounds of marijuana shipped by conspirators near Amarillo, Texas. On Aug. 28, 2018, law enforcement seized 1,846 pounds of marijuana shipped by conspirators near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Davis obtained more than $1 million as the result of his participation in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Davis also admitted that conspirators engaged in financial transactions of more than $3.5 million designed to conceal the nature, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds of marijuana distribution.

Under the terms of today's plea agreement, Davis must forfeit to the government his residential property in Wolf Creek, Oregon; he must also forfeit two properties in Redding, California, or in lieu of those forfeitures, pay a money judgment of $300,000 at or before sentencing. Girma must forfeit to the government $130,774 seized by law enforcement officers, as well as a 2014 Maserati Ghibli.

Under federal statutes, Davis is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 60 years in federal prison without parole. Girma is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation, FBI, the Columbia, Mo., Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.