July 22, 2014

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Cincy firefighter caught in pot ring bust

CINCINNATI — A city firefighter was among four people arrested and accused of being part of a nationwide ring that shipped tractor-trailer loads of marijuana, authorities said.

The ring allegedly unraveled this week with an arrest at a shopping mall and an attempted arrest at a city firehouse. Firefighter
Michael Ferguson wasn’t there, but he turned himself in later. Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents say the ring sold more

than $3 million worth of marijuana in Cincinnati every month.

The ring, which ended with 12 arrests nationwide, typically received marijuana shipments monthly, sometimes more often, from southern California, agents said. The loads ranged from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds at a time, said Russ Neville, Cincinnati DEA resident agent-in-charge.

“The street value of 3,000 pounds is like $3.6 million — that’s a month — so that’s pretty significant,” Neville said. “It definitely is a very large organization that has been operating several years in this area.”

Ferguson, 44, surrendered Friday on a charge of conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms — about 452 pounds — of marijuana.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Timothy Black released him Friday with their promise to return to court. Ferguson is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. One of about 800 Cincinnati firefighters, he is the fourth firefighter accused of a crime in the last 20 months.

Wende Cross, Ferguson’s lawyer, said her client is innocent.

“I don’t believe the government will have any evidence that puts marijuana in my client’s hands,” Cross said.

Cross said the Fire Department is aware of the arrest and she expects her client will be suspended without pay. If convicted, those indicted all face possible life prison terms.

A message seeking comment was left Saturday with the department.