WISCONSIN - A Whitefish Bay man was sentenced to nine years in federal prison Friday for running a large-scale marijuana distribution ring through his three North Shore McDonald's restaurants.[/I]
Prosecutors say Edward G. Patterson, 40, recruited his employees and a fellow Little League dad into the conspiracy, carried a gun and, once in jail, tried to hire someone to murder informants who helped agents make the case against him.
According to court records, he had started at the bottom of the McDonald's career ladder, worked his way up in the family business from laborer to manager and eventually took an ownership stake in stores in Glendale, Fox Point and Mequon. But by 2012, he used them like a line of credit. He took money from the restaurants to buy large amounts of marijuana from California, for resale in Wisconsin, and then laundered the illicit profits back through McDonald's accounts, "in effect providing himself a short term loan," according to his lawyer's sentencing memo.
Patterson told at least one co-conspirator that he was selling marijuana to get enough money to buy the Glendale McDonald's outright, and that he was hoping to make $2 million in the pot trade because, "When they legalize it, it's all over." Shortly after a local, state and federal task force busted the ring in 2013, the three restaurants were sold, and as part of his plea agreement, the government got $925,000 and Patterson's parents, who owned other McDonald's and a 49% stake in two of their son's businesses, got $1.1 million. Patterson gets nothing.
"Financially, the defendant has lost his businesses," the memo states. "The purpose of criminal forfeiture is punishment, and that certainly has been accomplished here."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Domaszek recommended an 11 year sentence. She argued that Patterson was involved in all aspects of a complex criminal enterprise, exploited his young McDonald's workers and lied to agents about his intentions to cooperate. Defense attorney Michael Fitzgerald said a six or seven year sentence was appropriate for his client. According to court records, Patterson and McDonald's workers he recruited drove marijuana back from California until Patterson was arrested in Nevada in 2012 with 32 pounds of marijuana in his car.
Then the operation moved to the U.S. mail, and Patterson sent packages with small amounts of pot to various addresses around the Milwaukee area, some 30 to 60 pounds a month, in at least 35 mailings in 2012 and 2013. Patterson paid people about $600 each just to receive the packages, which another co-conspirator would pick and deliver to Patterson.
Money was sent back to California by mail. In all, prosecutors say, Patterson moved between 200 and 800 pounds of marijuana. Several other people, including the California supplier, were also charged. At the time of the arrests, authorities executed 15 search warrants and recovered several pounds of high-grade marijuana, 11 firearms and about $90,000 in cash. Numerous residences were used to store, package and prepare the marijuana for distribution, and Patterson also possessed and attempted to distribute a mixture of oxycodone and methadone, according to the indictment. His sentencing memo indicates Patterson was addicted to painkillers, which he had begun using after some skin grafts following a car accident when he was 17.
Patterson pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and traveling between states and using the U.S. mail to further the conspiracy. He disputes the claims that he tried to hire someone to murder witnesses, saying he was trying to further his own assistance to authorities by getting information on the other Waukesha County Jail inmate, who unknown to Patterson was also cooperating with investigators. Patterson's memo notes he told authorities about the same conversations. Patterson was not convicted of plotting murders, but prosecutors asked that the conduct be consider obstruction of justice for calculating his sentencing guidelines.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa told Patterson that while he may not have prior criminal record, he was engaged in criminal activity from a young age, as a marijuana user, before he became a distributor. Randa ordered three years of supervision after Patterson gets out of prison. In a short apology to the court, Patterson blamed greed, drugs and debt for his decisions but said that after 18 months in jail, "My head is finally in a better place."
By Bruce Veilmetti - The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel/April 18, 2015
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