As a fugitive from justice with regards to a 600 pound bust in Baltimore, I managed to purchase 160 acres of prime Woodman Creek property in the name of “Ryan Lee.” It was a sweet spot with plenty of fresh spring water, berries, apples and sunshine. It was the closest thing to heaven I could imagine.
I had done some indoor growing, but mostly facilitated the duffel shuffle between Mendocino and cities like Boston and Baltimore having met all kinds of good folks on Dead Lot. Unfortunately, the duffel bag became an 18 wheeler and things got complicated.
And that's how I met Lt. Bruce Smith from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department. I cannot confirm or verify anything I recently read in the August 18 issue of the AVA, but I would like to share my experience with him and the system that I fell into when the fat lady finally sang on September 27, 2012.
There I was, 4:30 in the morning, just waking up trying to get a jump on the day. My thoughts were on pumping water and wondering how many pretty trimmers I needed in the upcoming weeks and months. My wife, “Jellybean,” was fast asleep when all of a sudden the dog went crazy and I thought I heard voices in the yard. The sound of an approaching diesel engine had me thinking that the neighbors were maybe paying a visit at 4:30. Hmm, that’s weird. Then the house filled with light and the crackle of a loudspeaker system announce that my visitors needed me to come out with my hands in the air.
I had just put on my cargo shorts which happened to be held up by a belt which just so happened to also hold a holstered Ruger. I know what you're thinking. East Coast scum got what he had coming. But in my defense the gun was bought after my worker Henry was viciously attacked and wounded severely by a “tater tot.” The idiot dog that my idiot neighbors refused to control. That and wild pigs and bears. (I would never kill a bear unless I absolutely had to to protect myself.)
I digress. So I dropped the shorts and made my way outside in boxers and muck boots to a “badger.” A sort of six wheeled military whip vehicle.
I was cuffed and questioned about the occupants of the house. As this was happening I noticed an officer loading shotgun shells into a robotic search machine of some sort. Lights, tank treads, cameras. They brought all of their toys and were eager to play.
Jellybean finally came out as the robot was going in, the poor girl thought it was best to eat our last 10 hits of LSD -- maybe not the best choice.
By this time I had been placed on my knees on the gravel driveway and our hero Bruce Smith was screaming in my face: “Where's the bleeping money?” over and over, not too subtle. I guess he was absent on the day they taught the good cop/bad cop routine. When I didn't respond he told me to get on my belly whie I was cuffed behind my back on a gravel driveway. This idiot wanted me to flop face first into the stones. I'm not resisting, not fighting, nothing. I'm not even saying anything. So he “helped me” with his knee. I suppose that's the “serve” aspect to “protect and serve.”
This is when the US marshals decided to enter stage right. They actually restrained and admonished the good lieutenant. Maybe that was the good cop/bad cop ploy I had heard about. At any rate, the fun was short-lived because the technical guy in charge of Mr. Robot exclaimed “METH LAB!” All eyes went to the video feed that was displayed on his handheld remote control video screen. That boy was so proud of himself. He had discovered and identified the largest meth lab Mendocino County had ever seen. This was sophisticated stuff. No backyard boogie here. No shake and bake. This was the real deal. Sinaloa style stuff for sure. I almost felt bad breaking up the high fives and circlejerks when I let him know he was looking at a 12 five-gallon glass carboys filled with varying stages of hard cider. Of course I am not to be believed. So a special task force was called in pronto.
Meanwhile old Jellybean was getting squirrelly and not digging our new friends and all the excitement. There are no similarities between a Phish show and a drug bust. I have this info straight from the source. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The only thing I can say I actually saw Bruce Smith put into his pocket that day that did not end up in the evidence pile was my bench made “Infidel” switchblade knife. That's not to say other stuff didn't disappear. The AR-15 I had was worth about $3200 with all of the optics and lasers and doodads attached to the rail. Of course when we went to court months later it was stripped down to its bare essentials. I am a rock hound and had close to $30,000 in gems and minerals that vanished. A lockbox with $2500 worth of testosterone and related gear (legally bought) was never inventoried. The iPad was gone.
The whole operation was overseen by the feds so I'm sure the pickings were slim and the trip wasn't really even worth it for the locals. Funny thing is, he (Smith) kept giving me the stink-eye calling me a “crook.” That was his weird way of talking -- “Where is the money, you crook?” “What are you doing in Mendocino, you crook?” He really had Jellybean laughing. By then -- well she wasn't to be stopped. I had to convince her it was real and not some elaborate hoax or episode of “Punked.”
Long story short, we ended up at Low Gap Road. Judge Moorman was in attendance. We actually had a bit of hope when, from the back of the transport van, we saw the good judge exit a car with the Grateful Dead sticker. About a year earlier we had met Sheriff Tom Allman at Wavy Gravy's birthday party in Richmond. (Longshoremen's maybe). Anyway we were beyond help, the feds wanted us and that was that.
Judge Moorman was fair and the situation played out the only way it really could have. I got a four year sentence from the state and rode out to San Quentin because I refused to proffer with the feds. Jellybean got to play the role as star witness against me and my friends so she got an immediate ride out east.
Before I was sentenced I read a letter in court to the judge and really to the community of Mendocino where I let it be known that I absolutely harbored no ill feelings. In fact my life in Laytonville was the closest thing to perfect that I had ever lived. We had a farm with chickens and other animals. We did stuff at the Grange like scion and seed exchanges. We had some good neighbors. We were part of a community where cannabis growing and use didn't make you an outcast. It felt good to be myself and not hide who I was. (Unless you count the fake name and running from the law.)
Sure, we definitely met some Mendo scumbags and I know that the good people of Mendo meet some out of town scumbags. But everyone had to take be taken at face value for who they were and how they presented themselves. One of the best neighbors I had was a guy named Craig. He had us over for a beer and showed us around his property. He gave us a dozen seedlings of his own stock was very friendly. On our way out he pulled me aside away from Jellybean and let me know that if I ever needed anything he would do his best to be there for me. He also told me that if he caught me spilling diesel or otherwise screwing up the land or the water he would burn me out of house and property.
I respect that. It wasn't a threat, it was an indication of his love for the land. He is really my type of guy. No BS. Just a firm handshake and a code to live by. I didn't see him much. We didn't hang out. But I knew he was there. That's the best sort of neighbor. RIP, Eddy Lepp!
Joseph Guadagnoli 57064037
Federal Correctional Institution, Box 52020
Bennetsville, SC 29512
LAYTONVILLE BUST NABS PAIR WANTED IN MARYLAND
by Linda Williams
October 5, 2012 — Federal marshals aided by Mendocino County sheriff”s deputies raided a Laytonville residence and arrested two fugitives who had skipped bail in 2011 to avoid prosecution in Maryland.
During the arrest, deputies also found a marijuana grow involving 300 mature plants and a hash lab.
Megan Bailey Veitch, 30, and Joseph Jesus Guadagnoli, 41, of Baltimore, Maryland; were arrested on suspicion of being fugitives from justice, manufacture of a controlled substance by chemical extraction, being armed with a firearm in the commission of a felony, and possession and cultivation of marijuana for sale.
Guadagnoli had the added charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Dominic Augustine Gonzales, 34, of Baldwin Park, also was arrested at the scene on suspicion of possession and cultivation of marijuana for sale and being armed with a firearm.
The trio is scheduled to appear in Mendocino County Superior Court on October 10 to enter pleas.
Veitch and Guadagnoli also are facing charges in Maryland for a 2010 indoor marijuana grow located in a Baltimore warehouse. The October 2010 arrest was touted by police as being the largest marijuana grow in Baltimore's history.
In the Baltimore warehouse police found 478 marijuana plants, 640 pounds of processed bud and $12,000 in cash.
Guadagnoli was released on $75,000 bail while awaiting trial and failed to appear at a court hearing in March 2011. Veitch’s bail was $25,000. The pair's bail was forfeited and a fugitive warrant was issued for their arrest.
When Baltimore police suspected the defendants had left the state, the U.S. Marshals Service was asked to help recover them.
Veitch and Guadagnoli could face up to a 10 year prison sentence on the pending Maryland charges, which include possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
According to Baltimore County police, Guadagnoli had a marijuana possession and distribution record dating back to 1992 in Iowa. He was found guilty of assault and marijuana charges in 1998, marijuana distribution charges in 2005, and two convictions for marijuana distribution charges in 2007.
(Courtesy, the Willits News)
From thebaynet.com (U.S. Justice Department)
U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Joseph Jesus Guadagnoli, age 33, of Baltimore, Maryland, on December 5, 2014, to 15 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute between 1,000 and 4,000 kilograms of marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. Judge Titus ordered Guadagnoli to forfeit $6,000 in postal money orders and four guns and ammunition seized from his home, and ordered him to pay a money judgment in the amount of $2,370,000, the value of the property derived from or otherwise involved in the marijuana conspiracy.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; U.S. Marshal Johnny Hughes; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, from at least 2008, until September 27, 2012, Guadagnoli conspired with Andrew Sharpeta, and others to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. Initially, Guadagnoli participated in the conspiracy by unloading shipments of marijuana at various warehouses throughout Baltimore, leasing a warehouse for this purpose, and distributing the bulk marijuana. Guadagnoli also transported marijuana to various locations in the eastern United States.
On March 18, 2009, DEA agents executed a search warrant at 3522 Hickory Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, which was owned, leased, and utilized by members of the conspiracy, and which served as one center of operations for the narcotics trafficking organization. The items seized from the residence included more than 100 pounds of marijuana, $20,000 in cash, 31 cellular telephones, documents regarding the purchase of a Lancair IV-P aircraft for $450,000 by D’amico, four money counters, tally sheets with balances over $1.5 million, and false identification documents. On the day the search warrant was executed, a member of the conspiracy came to the home of Guadagnoli and his then-girlfriend (now wife) Megan Veitch and asked them to go to the Hickory Avenue address to retrieve an airplane seat which had been removed from a plane that was being used to transport money and marijuana. Guadagnoli and Veitch went to the Hickory Avenue address and removed the airplane seat as well as some of the furniture.
On October 4, 2010, members of the Baltimore County Police Department executed a search warrant at a warehouse which had been leased by Guadagnoli. Guadagnoli and Veitch were arrested leaving the warehouse. Inside the warehouse, officers recovered approximately 600 pounds of marijuana in shipping containers which had been sent by a co-conspirator. Officers also discovered a sophisticated marijuana grow operation that involved over 400 marijuana plants.
After making bond, Guadagnoli and Veitch fled to California, where a co-conspirator assisted them in obtaining California driver’s licenses in false names to conceal their identities. Guadagnoli purchased a rural house in Mendocino, California, where he oversaw the cultivation of marijuana on the surrounding property. On September 27, 2012, Veitch and Guadagnoli were arrested on the Mendocino property. A search warrant was executed, and members of law enforcement recovered hundreds of marijuana plants and paraphernalia associated with the cultivation and harvesting of marijuana. In addition, from Guadagnoli’s home officers seized postal money orders totaling $6,000.00, a 9mm Ruger pistol, a Smith & Wesson A&P 15 semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle, a Marlin .22 caliber rifle, a Remington Arms Co. 12 gauge shotgun, a box of 9mm ammunition, a box of .22 caliber ammunition, marijuana, jars with concentrated cannabis, digital scales, five cellular telephones, a money counting machine and other drug paraphernalia.
Megan Veitch, age 32, of Baltimore and Andrew Sharpeta, age 39, of Avondale, Pennsylvania, previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 34 months and 63 months in prison, respectively.