A Jamaican woman who United States (US) law enforcement officials say led a major drug smuggling ring was last Friday sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murder in aid of racketeering, in connection with a conspiracy to distribute marijuana in five US states and Jamaica.
Jean Brown, 43, of Jamaica, was identified in court as one of the leaders of the Brown Organisation, a criminal gang whose members distributed narcotics primarily in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona, California and Jamaica.
The investigation was conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Baltimore County Police Department and the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
"Today's (Friday) life sentence of Jean Brown for her drug conspiracy, kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering is a victory for HSI special agents, who, since 2009, have been investigating the Jean Brown drug-trafficking organisation, which spanned five states and two countries," said William Winter, special agent in charge of HSI Baltimore.
"HSI special agents have seized approximately 100 pounds of marijuana, US$853,000 in cash and bank accounts and six firearms from these co-conspirators, who used intimidation and violence to further their criminal activities," added Winter.
According to Winter: "HSI will continue working with our law-enforcement partners to investigate and ultimately dismantle criminal organisations that are wreaking violence in our communities through the illicit drug trade."
In the meantime, US Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said, "Jean Brown ran a lucrative drug organisation that committed wanton and brutal acts of violence."
According to Rosenstein: "In 2009, after authorities seized US$250,000 in drug proceeds from courier Michael Knight, Brown and her associates kidnapped Knight, dismembered him in a bathtub and threw his remains in the trash."
According to evidence presented at the seven-day trial, Jean Brown and Carl Smith - who was killed by one of Brown's co-conspirators - led a drug organisation that obtained marijuana in Arizona and California and used trucking companies that Brown owned and operated to transport the marijuana to Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York on a monthly basis.
The conspirators transported as much as 1,000 pounds of marijuana per month from 2000 until Brown's arrest in 2010.
The court was told that Brown employed the truck drivers, arranged for the distribution of the marijuana on the East Coast - principally in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, used couriers to smuggle the drug proceeds to Jamaica and sent cash back to the Southwest to pay for the next load.
Witnesses testified that on December 16, 2009, Brown, Smith and additional co-defendants Peter Blake, Hubert Downer and Dean Myrie kidnapped Michael Knight, one of Brown's money couriers.
Knight was holding US$1 million for the organisation, but when the money was collected US$250,000 was missing.
Myrie drove Knight, who was bound with a telephone cable, Brown and other drug members to an apartment in White Marsh, Maryland, where Brown and others interrogated Knight.
After Knight was not able to provide the location of the money, Brown ordered Downer and Blake to kill Knight.
The court was further told that Knight was stabbed to death in the bathtub. Over the next few days, Brown, Myrie, Downer and Blake dismembered Knight and disposed of his body in dumpsters in the Loch Raven and Liberty Road areas of Baltimore County.
In addition to the murder of Knight, the evidence showed that after threatening Smith on several occasions, in April 2010, Brown offered to pay co-conspirators to murder Smith in Tijuana, Mexico.
Witnesses testified that one of the co-conspirators killed Smith, shooting him in the head.
Dean Myrie, otherwise called 'Journey', 39, of Jamaica, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in aid of racketeering and was sentenced to 108 months in prison.
Hubert Downer, also known as 'Doc' and 'Michael Reid', 51, of Jamaica, and Peter Blake, 55, of Jamaica, have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.
'In 2009, after authorities seized US$250,000 in drug proceeds from courier Michael Knight, Brown and her associates kidnapped Knight, dismembered him in a bathtub and threw his remains in the trash.'
- US attorney