Thursday, December 3, 2020

Nicka Time

An attorney described as the "consigliere," "fixer," and "adviser" to an "elaborate, multi-state marijuana trafficking organization" has been disbarred by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The facts of the attorney's conviction are set forth in the report and recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board.

The criminal sentencing was described in a press release from the United States Attorneys Office for the District of Maryland.

According to the evidence presented at his 15-day trial, Farrell was admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and maintained a law office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Matthew Nicka, Gretchen Peterson, David D’Amico, and others were part of an extensive drug trafficking operation discovered by the DEA when a search warrant was executed at a residence in the 3500 block of Hickory Avenue in Baltimore on March 18, 2009. The residence was a center of operation for the group. Agents seized more than 80 pounds of marijuana, 30 cell phones, and tally sheets showing over $14 million in marijuana sales, among other items.

Trial testimony showed that beginning in 2009 and continuing through at least April 2013, Farrell conspired with Nicka, D’Amico, Peterson and others to conduct financial transactions using the proceeds of the Nicka Organization in order to conceal the source and control of the drug proceeds. Testimony showed that Farrell received drug proceeds in the form of cash. Farrell then deposited some of the cash into his commercial bank accounts, recording the deposits as payments in the names of individuals who had not provided the cash to Farrell. Using the drug proceeds, Farrell wrote checks and disbursed cash to pay for the legal representation of grand jury witnesses and individuals under investigation in connection with the activities of the Nicka Organization, which included payments to two Baltimore area attorneys. Trial evidence also established that Farrell used drug proceeds to purchase money orders, which he directed to be sent to the inmate account of an incarcerated individual who was part of the Nicka organization.

According to trial evidence, in February 2011, Farrell met with a member of the Nicka organization to discuss filing a claim with the DEA to seek the return of certain property DEA had seized upon arrest. Farrell advised that individual not to disclose to the DEA that drug co-conspirator Anthony Marcantoni, had given him an expensive luxury watch for a “good year”. On February 28, 2011, Farrell caused four affidavits in support of the forfeiture of the property to be filed with the DEA that contained the forged signature of this individual and the forged signature of the notary public.

According to trial evidence, on July 11, 2012, Farrell met with another member of the Nicka organization who Farrell knew was represented by other counsel. During the recorded meeting, Farrell advised the member of the Nicka organization to meet with federal law enforcement officers and federal prosecutors, but to only tell them what they already knew, rather than sharing all the information about the drug and money laundering conspiracy. According to trial evidence, Farrell had previously laundered $10,000 in cash by obtaining a check from this person so that Farrell’s books would falsely reflect he had received $10,000. Farrell acknowledged in the recorded meeting, that he had given $10,000 in cash to this person in exchange for the check. In the recording, Farrell said he would get $25,000 to assist with that person’s legal expenses because “the sources of the cash” would feel “a whole lot better subsidizing” the person’s attorney if that attorney was “comfortable” with Farrell.

District Judge Roger W. Titus previously sentenced: David D’Amico, age 52, of Baltimore, to 10 years in prison; Matthew Nicka, age 46, of Baltimore, to 188 months in prison; and Gretchen Peterson, age 37, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to seven years in prison. D’Amico, Nicka and Peterson pleaded guilty on January13, 2016, to conspiracy to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to commit money laundering. D’Amico, Nicka and Peterson were fugitives from the time the indictment was returned in December 2010, until Nicka and Peterson were arrested in Canada in early August 2013, and D’Amico was extradited from Colombia, South America. Judge Titus also entered forfeiture orders requiring Nicka to pay a money judgment of $15 million; and D’Amico to pay a money judgment of $1 million, which represents the proceeds of the offense. In addition, the investigation resulted in the conviction of twelve other defendants.

(Mike Frisch)

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