BALTIMORE—U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced James Bestman, age 38, of Laurel, Maryland, today to 262 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for distribution of marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge Eric C. Hylton of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Ava Cooper-Davis of the Drug Enforcement Administration-Washington Field Division.
According to testimony presented at Bestman’s two-week trial, from 2004 to 2010, Bestman conspired to distribute marijuana, which he obtained from sources in the Southwest and transported to the East Coast and Ohio. The evidence showed that Bestman distributed at least 10,000 pounds of marijuana over the course of the conspiracy.
According to witness testimony, during 2004 and 2005, Bestman was a supervisor in the organization, responsible for obtaining drugs from a source in Arizona. Initially, Bestman purchased approximately 100 pounds of marijuana, but by the end of 2005, when the other members of the organization were arrested, Bestman was purchasing approximately 900 pounds of marijuana at a time.
Beginning in 2005, witnesses testified that Bestman began working with another individual to deal marijuana, and from 2006 to 2008, they purchased between 250 and 500 pounds of marijuana once or twice a month, which they distributed on the East Coast. Additional testimony showed that Bestman engaged in drug deals with other individuals and hired couriers to truck the drugs and money back and forth across the country. During this time, one of Bestman’s couriers was stopped by police in the Midwest, and over $160,000 in cash was seized from a hidden compartment in the car.
Witnesses also testified about Bestman’s involvement in a drug deal in San Diego, California in 2010. Bestman and members of his organization arranged to purchase 150 pounds of marijuana from an FBI and DEA source. When Bestman began directing where and how the drugs should be loaded and transported, police moved to arrest Bestman, who fled. Bestman was subsequently found hiding in the women’s restroom of a nearby restaurant.
Finally, the evidence showed that Bestman participated in a money laundering scheme involving the purchase of a 2007 Mercedes. One of Bestman’s co-conspirators gave Bestman $95,000 in drug proceeds, of which $80,000 was to be used as a down payment on a 2007 Mercedes for the co-conspirator and $15,000 was to go to Bestman and his then-girlfriend for laundering the money. Instead, Bestman and his girlfriend deposited the funds into their personal and business accounts, structuring the deposits so that they were less than $10,000 each in order to avoid bank reporting requirements. Testimony showed that Bestman and his girlfriend then withdrew $60,000 of that money and used it for the down payment on the Mercedes, stealing the additional $20,000 that the co-conspirator had intended for the down payment on the car.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the IRS-Criminal Investigation and DEA for their work in the investigation and recognized the FBI, Baltimore Police Department, and San Diego, California Police Department for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Mushtaq Gunja and Joshua Kaul, who prosecuted the case.