NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Criminal charges have been filed against four men in connection with what investigators are calling a large-scale cocaine trafficking conspiracy.
Marvin O’Neal Carter, Sr., 49, of Newport News; Daniel Rodriguez, aka Daniel Lopez-Rodriguez, 49, of California; Hilario Rodriguez, aka Hilario Lopez-Rodriguez, 50, of California; and Michael Stephen Kuna, 42, of Canada, are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.
On Thursday, the DEA, FBI and Newport News police searched a garage in Newport News. Officials were seen carrying large bags of cash from the search area.
The DOJ says law enforcement officers seized around 119 pounds of cocaine and 100 bundles of cash, containing around $5,000 to $10,000 each bundle.
James Alexander works at a different garage, near the one that was searched. He said he saw a large truck back up into the alley earlier that morning.
“It sounded like they tore the door down. There was knocking on the back door and I went and opened the door to look…When I opened the door, they put all them guns on me, told me to put my hands up, walk backwards,” he said.
Alexander said he was later released. He never noticed anything unusual at the garage next door.
“All of us mechanics, we talked together. If they need something, we got it, we give (it to) them. We need, they give to us,” he said.
The defendants made their first court appearance at 4 p.m. Friday at the federal courthouse in Norfolk.
Carter and the Rodriguez brothers requested a court-appointed attorney. Kuna expressed interest in retaining an attorney based out of Los Angeles, California.
According to court documents, agents saw a tractor-trailer arrive Thursday at the garage. The garage is leased by Carter. The semi eventually off-loaded the trailer next to the garage. A short time later, Kuna and the Rodriguez brothers parked at Carter’s garage.
Records show the trailer had crossed the U.S. to Mexico border 16 times in the past six months.
The four men then allegedly worked together to unload cocaine from hidden compartments that were underneath the trailer. A short time later, court documents say Kuna was seen loading a large duffel bag into a vehicle before leaving. Agents followed Kuna, pulled him over and found two duffel bags, which smelled like wet cash, the document says.
After his arrest, the criminal complaint says Carter admitted to being a “nickel and dime” cocaine dealer. He said he would receive crates, brought to him by men he didn’t know, for someone else to pick up. He claimed to not know what was inside them, but admitted to getting a small compensation for his role.
Each man charged faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, if they are convicted.
All four are due back in court for preliminary and detention hearings at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.