KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Five Missouri residents and two Colorado residents have pleaded guilty to their roles in a conspiracy to distribute more than $1.7 million of marijuana that was mailed from Colorado to Missouri.
Christopher E. Buckingham, 42, of Versailles, Missouri, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips to participating in the conspiracy from Aug. 28, 2015, to July 10, 2018.
Co-defendants Natalie J. McNeil, 34, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; her brother, Tanner L. McNeil, 29, of Denver, Colorado; and Benjamin T. Parker, 29, also of Denver, also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Additionally, they have pleaded guilty to their roles in a related money-laundering conspiracy.
In separate but related cases, Eva N. Johnston, 44, Brian E. McIntyre, 25, and Brian C. Miller, 29, all of Kansas City, Missouri, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the marijuana-trafficking conspiracy.
Tanner McNeil and Parker shipped the marijuana to co-conspirators in Missouri for further distribution. The marijuana was shipped in sealed packages inside plastic protein containers, and each shipment usually contained between four to six pounds. A total of 121 packages (484 to 726 pounds of marijuana) were shipped during the conspiracy.
Natalie McNeil deposited cash in structured amounts (to avoid federal transaction reporting requirements) in the bank accounts of Tanner McNeil and Parker. The cash deposits were made in bank branches in Missouri then withdrawn shortly afterward by Tanner McNeil and Parker at bank branches in Colorado.
A total of $1,769,244 in deposits of drug proceeds were made in Missouri, with $1,033,788 being made into Tanner McNeil’s bank account and $735,456 being made into Parker’s bank account. Investigators determined that $1,295,063 of the deposited drug proceeds were withdrawn by Tanner McNeil and Parker in Colorado shortly after the deposits were made in Missouri. They knew that these financial transactions were conducted in order promote illegal marijuana trafficking, were designed at least in part to conceal the nature, location, and source of the proceeds of the illegal marijuana trafficking, and were designed at least in part to avoid financial transaction reporting requirements under state or federal law.
Buckingham admitted today that he received four packages that contained a total of 16 to 24 pounds of marijuana.
Under federal statutes, Buckingham is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Tanner and Natalie McNeil and Parker are each subject to a sentence of up to 40 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 defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jess E. Michaelsen and Ashleigh A. Ragner. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).