Guilty plea ends big marijuana case

YOUNGSTOWN — It came as somewhat of a surprise to federal drug agents that a lawman and legitimate businessmen were linked to a massive pot factory concealed in a warehouse.

Roger S. Bamberger, assistant U.S. attorney and 23-year veteran of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, reflected on the case that ended Tuesday with the guilty plea of Edwin J. Stupka, 49.

Stupka, the 11th defendant in the case, moved to Tucson, Ariz., from Youngstown around the time the first marijuana trafficking arrests were made in 2003.

He was indicted in May 2006, charged with money laundering (nearly $2 million) and conspiracy to distribute more than a ton of marijuana. He will be sentenced April 3 by U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus in Youngstown federal court.

The advisory sentencing guideline range is nine to 15 years. As part of a plea agreement, Stupka must forfeit his ill-gotten gains — including a plane and hilltop mansion in Arizona.

Stupka has acknowledged that he attempted to launder $1.7 million through a scheme to buy a chain of Arabica Coffee Houses in Cleveland.

Bamberger said “lady luck appeared on the side of law enforcement” with the discovery of the marijuana farm inside a warehouse at 814 Marshall St. in early 2004. A Youngstown police officer and special agent with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were taking photos near the warehouse in preparation for an upcoming trial when they smelled marijuana.

He said it was one of the largest seizures for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Read the full story Monday in The Vindicator and

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