Drug Traffickers Caught Trying to Deliver Marijuana via FedEx
At around 3pm, the detectives saw Kevin Smith arrive at Mail Plus driving a rented SUV, with co-defendant Daniel Shaw in the passenger seat. Smith parked the car and retrieved a dolly from the facility. After loading two large, heavily taped boxes onto the dolly, Smith wheeled them into Mail Plus. Shaw stayed in the car and Detective Beshai remained in his own car to watch the SUV.
The Postal inspector entered Mail Plus in her plain clothes and saw Smith near the counter with two large brown boxes with brown paper tape on the seams; the inspector knew that this was a common method narcotics traffickers employ to hide any odor coming from the package. Smith told the Mail Plus employee that one of the boxes contained a chair and the other contained an ottoman. He paid in cash and was given a receipt that showed Brooklyn, New York, as the delivery location. At trial, the Postal inspector testified that Brooklyn was a known destination for illegal narcotics, including marijuana, and that drug traffickers typically paid for shipping in cash.
Smith left Mail Plus after about 20 minutes and got back into his car. In the meantime, the Postal inspector approached the employee and identified herself. However, defendant Shaw then entered the store and asked for a certain type of box. When the employee went to the back to look for the box, Shaw peeked behind the counter and left without making a purchase. The men remained in the SUV for about 45 minutes and, when they drove away, the LAPD detectives radioed for a patrol car to stop them.
Around 4:30pm, a FedEx driver arrived at Mail Plus to pick up packages and was told by the Postal inspector that she was investigating the two boxes. A K-9 unit was dispatched to the scene and Robo entered from the rear of the store and scratched at one of the boxes. The boxes were seized. However, Detective Beshai testified that the FedEx driver was permitted to pick the boxes up and, after he left, the officers called him on his phone and recovered the boxes.
A search of the SUV revealed a key to a storage space, along with some documents connected to a storage facility on S. La Cienega Boulevard. A K-9 dog was brought to the locked door of the storage unit and, when he indicated that narcotics were present, a search warrant for the unit was obtained. Inside the unit, officers found several duffel bags and tote bags of the type commonly used to transport drugs prior to packing them for shipment. They also found ammonia and foam peanuts.
At the police station, the three officers observed as the boxes were opened. Inside officers discovered peanuts, ammonia (used to mask the odor of drugs), and marijuana. The marijuana had been packed in a second box, surrounded by a “party ball” – plastic film and newspaper soaked in ammonia.
At trial, the defendants stipulated that the boxes were examined by an LAPD criminalist, who determined that one of the boxes contained 38 pounds of pot and the other contained 37 pounds of pot. The defense offered no witnesses.
The jury convicted Smith of two felonies – transporting marijuana (California Health & Safety Code, section 11360 (a)) and possession of marijuana for sale (California Health & Safety Code, section 11359). Shaw was acquitted of all charges. After reviewing the evidence and preplea probation report the judge denied probation, finding that the criminal sophistication of the scheme warranted prison time. Because Smith had little prior criminal history, however, the judge sentenced him to just two years in prison.