Valley man convicted on federal laundering charges in drug case

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A federal jury has convicted a Wasilla man of 49 counts of money laundering in what authorities called one of the Mat-Su Valley's most sophisticated indoor marijuana grow operations.

Robert Johnston III, who faces up to 10 years in federal prison, was being held Thursday as a flight risk. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Rosenbaum, one of two prosecutors who tried the federal case.

The federal jury convicted Johnston, 60, on Wednesday after less than an hour of deliberations. He is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 3.

Rosenbaum said Johnston spent more than $300,000 in cash during 1995 and 1996.

Part of the money went toward maintaining the building in Wasilla that housed the marijuana operation, Rosenbaum said. Johnston reportedly tried to hide the rest of the drug proceeds by funneling the money through the name of a non-existent tenant at the site, a commercial garage building.

Johnston also was accused of stealing electrical power to run the operation.

In late 1996, Johnston was arrested with four others on drug charges after Alaska State Troopers raided the garage. Officers also seized marijuana from 6-foot-tall plants, Rosenbaum said. After processing, the marijuana weighed more than 70 pounds, he said.

Charges against one man were eventually dropped, according to Assistant District Attorney Dave Berry. Three others, who claimed they were hired to process the marijuana, were convicted on drug charges and received 18-month probationary sentences that have since been put aside, Berry said.

Johnston was convicted in state court on drug and theft charges in 1998. He was sentenced to one year and three months in prison but is appealing the case and has not served the full term, Berry said.

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