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Multistate drug bust illustrates gravity of conspiracy charges

Conspiracy charges often arise in complex drug trafficking cases. A recent example: Colorado's indictment of 32 people, including several Minnesota residents, allegedly involved in a trafficking ring.

According to the indictment, the operation involved unlicensed growing facilities in Colorado that allegedly exported marijuana to other states, primarily Minnesota, with planes from one member's skydiving business. The indictment claims that the group distributed more than 400 pounds of marijuana per month, profiting $12 million over four years.

A lengthy multi-jurisdictional investigation, dubbed "Operation Golden Go-fer," resulted in charges ranging from conspiracy, illegal drug cultivation and felony distribution to money laundering, tax evasion, attempting to influence a public servant and racketeering.

Drug conspiracy charges typically play a prominent role in cases like this one. At the federal level, drug conspiracy charges involve two key elements. The prosecution must prove, first, that the defendant entered an agreement to sell illegal drugs and, second, that he or she participated in that agreement.

If convicted, the defendant can face extremely serious consequences. Federal conspiracy charges carry the same sentence as the underlying crime the parties agreed to commit. What's more, the prosecution doesn't have to show that each member of the conspiracy actually possessed drugs or spearheaded the operation. As a result, even those who were only marginally involved in the enterprise can still face harsh criminal penalties.

As with any type of drug charge, conspiracy charges call for experienced legal representation.

Source: Drugs and Controlled Substances, 25 Am. Jur. 2d § 150, "Conspiracy to Violate Drug Laws."

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