People accused of being members of a drug ring that has imported more than $150 million in marijuana to the mid-Atlantic region since the late 1970s were named yesterday in an indictment unsealed by federal prosecutors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Alsup described it as the largest marijuana case ever prosecuted in the district.
"If you'd told me an operation of this size was operating in this region and was able to unload the amounts they were able to unload, I wouldn't have believed it," he said, describing an operation that mainly used sailboats to bring in marijuana from South America, Mexico, Jamaica and Thailand.
Named in the indictment as the group's leaders were Christopher Joseph Ecker of Rockville, and William J. Troy III of Boca Raton, Fla. Prosecutors said they managed the operation -- maintaining contacts overseas, buying the boats and paying expenses.
More than 300,000 pounds of marijuana were imported by the drug ring between 1978 and 1993, according to court records. It was brought into the United States at points including the Chesapeake Bay, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and Oregon.
Much of it was distributed in the Washington, D.C., area and Virginia.
The indictment names 11 people, including five Maryland residents and others who live in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida. Most of the defendants had set up what appeared to be legitimate businesses -- including a real estate firm and a software company -- although investigators discovered that many were kept afloat only by infusions from the drug profits, Mr. Alsup said. The indictment charged Mr. Ecker's Rockville lawyer, Michael A. Lieberman, with money laundering.
Other Maryland residents indicted were David Edwin Boeggeman of Rockville, Theodore Mark Sapperstein of Owings Mills, and Timothy Michael Troy of Crownsville.