Ex-Army SEAL charged in SC marijuana smuggling operation

A person stated to be a former adorned U.S. Army SEAL and CIA particular agent has been arrested in reference to an ongoing nationwide federal marijuana-smuggling investigation with primary ties to Columbia.

James Dennis “J.D.” Smith, 49, used to be arrested Saturday in Charlotte. At the identical day, two Columbia-area brothers, Carl Rye, 41, and Bryon Rye, 43, have been picked up in a Rosewood Force space through government.

All 3 are a part of the similar case. They’re every charged with conspiring to distribute “no less than 700 kilograms” (1,540 kilos) or extra of marijuana since 2014, in step with a felony criticism. The fee carries a sentence of 5 to 40 years in jail.

Probably the most marijuana seized in a garage unit belonging to Carl Rye used to be it sounds as if legally grown scientific marijuana and got here from California. It used to be marked “Illegal to redistribute,” in step with the criticism.

Smith and the Ryes, shackled hand and foot and in orange jumpsuits, seemed Monday in federal courtroom in Columbia for preliminary arraignment earlier than U.S. Justice of the Peace Pass judgement on Shiva Hodges. They’re being held with out bond.

Smith used to be known as a former Army SEAL and CIA particular agent through a couple of assets acquainted with the drug smuggling case and on a website online for an international safety and disaster control consulting corporate, the place Smith is indexed as a important affiliate. An organization professional stated Monday he hasn’t labored there for a minimum of 5 years.

In keeping with the criticism, Smith provided the Rye brothers with marijuana. Bryon Rye provided the cash to shop for Smith’s marijuana, and Carl Rye offered the marijuana in South Carolina, together with to a distributor in Beaufort County, felony papers stated.

On a large number of events, Smith landed his non-public aircraft at Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport in Columbia to select up cash owed to him through the Rye brothers, the criticism stated. Each and every time Smith landed there, Bryon Rye went to a financial institution to get money from a protected deposit field he stored there to pay Smith for the marijuana, the criticism stated.

Smith had purchased the aircraft, a twin-engine Cessna with a spread of a few 1,000 miles, beneath the trade identify of “The Praetorian” to be used in scientific humanitarian missions in Central The united states, in step with aviation and courtroom information.

The arrest of Smith and the Ryes climaxed a three-year investigation wherein the federal Drug Enforcement Company and different regulation enforcement brokers used aircraft information, protected deposit field information, text-message information, automobile digital monitoring gadgets, video surveillance cameras, drug-sniffing canine, GPS mobile phone monitoring, nonetheless pictures and undeniable outdated stakeouts and the tailing of suspects, in step with courtroom information.

The Ryes have been picked up Saturday in reference to a regulation enforcement raid at a space within the Rosewood phase of Columbia, a number of miles from downtown.

In that daylight hours raid, which shocked Rosewood neighbors, greater than a dozen closely armed brokers in about 10 unmarked vehicles smashed a hollow within the door of the home at 3905 Rosewood Force, the place Bryon Rye lived.

Pam Moore, 49, lives in Columbia and noticed the scene outdoor the house when she drove through Saturday round four p.m. She estimated round 10 officials have been outdoor the house.

“I used to be like, what’s happening?” she stated. “SWAT guys have been of their complete tools at the edge (of the wall in entrance of the home). I feel they have been attempting to give protection to the scene.” Moore stated she additionally noticed a field outdoor the house that learn “DEA Proof.”

The Ryes saved marijuana they were given from Smith at two garage gadgets Carl Rye rented, one at Riverchase Self Garage in Lexington and the opposite at The Garage Heart in Aiken, the criticism stated.

In keeping with an web website of a safety and disaster control corporate that Smith labored for, Smith used to be within the SEALs for 16 years and used to be recruited through the CIA as “a unique agent for the Administrative center of Safety.” As a SEAL, Smith served in Iraq and gained a Bronze Big name with V for heroism in struggle and used to be awarded a Particular Operations Medic of the Yr award. With the CIA, he equipped safety for U.S. and overseas purchasers in war-zone environments, together with Afghanistan, Haiti, Pakistan, Africa and Latin The united states, the website online says.

The case used to be evolved through the DEA and its state Tactical Diversion Squad, which incorporates officials from Richland County, Columbia police and the fifth Circuit Solicitor’s workplace. The FBI and Native land Safety Investigations additionally assisted.

Personnel reporter Teddy Kulmala contributed to this tale.

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