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Portland Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Role in Interstate Marijuana Trafficking Conspiracy

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PORTLAND, Ore.—A Portland man was sentenced to federal prison today for his role in a conspiracy to traffic marijuana illegally grown in Oregon to several U.S. states for resale. 

Kyle Lee Cerkoney, 40, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison and five years’ supervised release.

Cerkoney was also ordered to forfeit criminally-derived proceeds and property identified by the government, including nine luxury watches, a diamond necklace, a Porsche 911 sports car, a semi-automatic rifle, and more than $570,000.

According to court documents, Cerkoney and two friends—Jeremiah David Cruz, 40, of Vancouver, Washington, and Robert Benjamin Kawika Dawe, 40, of Beaverton, Oregon—conspired with one another to transport black-market marijuana grown in Oregon to several U.S. states including New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, and Minnesota. The three men went to great lengths to conceal their illegal shipments. They hand-built large crates to package marijuana and marijuana extract for shipping, created false bills of lading, and flew to destination cities to personally receive their shipments. When commercial freight companies, under suspicion, began rejecting or limiting their freight shipments, the group started using a smaller private freight company.

Over the course of the conspiracy, Cerkoney, Cruz, and Dawe shipped or attempted to ship more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana with an estimated street value in the destination states of more than $2.5 million. They used several bank accounts opened under various false business names to launder their proceeds and structured cash deposits to avoid detection by financial regulators.

On July 8, 2021, Cerkoney, Cruz, and Dawe were charged by criminal information with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Cerkoney and Cruz were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

On November 4, 2021, Cerkoney waived indictment and pleaded guilty to both charges.

The next day, on November 5, 2021, Cruz also pleaded guilty to both charges and, on February 3, 2022, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years’ supervised release.

On November 1, 2021, Dawe pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana and, on April 11, 2022, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years’ supervised release.

After pleading guilty, Cerkoney aroused additional government suspicion by attempting to sell the Porsche 911 sports car he had recently agreed to forfeit. Cerkoney shipped the vehicle from Oregon to California for repair and resale following an accident.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Portland Police Bureau. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia E. Jarrett for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Oregon.

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