BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Harold McDonald, 23, of Virginia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra to conspiring to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a $10,000,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Misha Coulson, who is handling the case, stated that on August 23, 2020, a commercial tractor bearing Canadian plates was encountered at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry and was said to contain two shipments of empty plastic bottles and paper product. The truck was referred to secondary inspection for a vehicle x-ray scan. A physical inspection of five wooden pallets inside revealed 1,848.5 kilograms of marijuana located on pallets.
Subsequently, law enforcement officers conducted a controlled delivery operation. This included a vehicle stop of a Jeep Cherokee in which the defendant was riding. The Jeep was observed following the shipment of marijuana and conducting counter surveillance of law enforcement in the area. Law enforcement observed a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun partially tucked under the defendant’s leg. An additional loaded magazine for the handgun was later located on McDonald’s person. Also, in the vehicle at the time of the stop were co-defendants Joseph Lee Ellis and Heather Nicole Dommer, who was driving the vehicle.
Charges remain pending against co-defendants Joseph Lee Ellis and Health Nicole Dommer. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The plea is the result of an investigation by Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy and Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.
Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
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