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Former Navy SEAL And CIA Special Agent Charged In Federal Drug-Smuggling Case
A man said to be a former decorated U.S. Navy SEAL and CIA special agent has been arrested in connection with an ongoing national federal marijuana smuggling investigation with major ties to Columbia, South Carolina.
James Dennis “J.D.” Smith, 49, was arrested Saturday in Charlotte. On the same day, two Columbia-area brothers, Carl Rye, 41, and Bryon Rye, 43, were picked up in a Rosewood Drive house by authorities.
All three are part of the same case. They are each charged with conspiring to distribute “at least 700 kilograms (1,540 pounds) or more of marijuana since 2014, according to a criminal complaint. The charge carries a sentence of five to 40 years in prison.
Some of the marijuana seized in a storage unit belonging to Carl Rye was apparently legally grown medical marijuana and came from California. It was marked “Unlawful to redistribute,” according to the complaint.
Smith and the Ryes, shackled hand and foot and in orange jumpsuits, appeared Monday in federal court in Columbia for initial arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges. They are being held without bond.
Smith was identified as a former Navy SEAL and CIA special agent by multiple sources familiar with the drug smuggling case and on a website for a global security and crisis management consulting company, where Smith is listed as a principal associate. A company official said Monday he hasn’t worked there for at least five years.
According to the complaint, Smith supplied the Rye brothers with marijuana. Bryon Rye supplied the money to buy Smith’s marijuana, and Carl Rye sold the marijuana in South Carolina, including to a distributor in Beaufort County, legal papers said.
On numerous occasions, Smith landed his private airplane at Jim Hamilton-Owens Field in Columbia to pick up money owed to him by the Rye brothers, the complaint said. Each time Smith landed at Owens Field, Bryon Rye went to a bank to get cash from a safe deposit box he kept there to pay Smith for the marijuana, the complaint said.
Smith had bought the airplane, a twin-engine Cessna with a range of some 1,000 miles, under the business name of “The Praetorian” for use in medical humanitarian missions in Central America, according to aviation and court records.
The arrest of Smith and the Ryes climaxed a three-year investigation in which the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement agents used airplane records, safe deposit box records, text message records, vehicle electronic tracking devices, video surveillance cameras, drug-sniffing dogs, GPS cell phone tracking, still photographs and plain old-fashioned stakeouts and the tailing of suspects, according to court records.
The Ryes were picked up on Saturday in connection with a law enforcement raid on Saturday at a house in the Rosewood section of Columbia, several miles from downtown.
In that daytime raid, which surprised Rosewood neighbors, more than a dozen heavily armed agents in about 10 unmarked cars smashed a hole in the door of the house at 3905 Rosewood Drive, where Bryon Rye lived.
Pam Moore, 49, lives in Columbia and saw the scene outside the home when she drove by Saturday around 4 p.m. She estimated around 10 officers were outside the home.
“I was like, what’s going on?” she said. “SWAT guys were in their full gear on the edge (of the wall in front of the house). I think they were trying to protect the scene.” Moore said she also saw a box outside the home that read “DEA Evidence.”
The Ryes stored marijuana they got from Smith at two storage units Carl Rye rented, one at the Riverchase Self Storage in Lexington, and the other at The Storage Center in Aiken, the complaint said.
According to an Internet site of a security and crisis management company that Smith worked for, Smith was in the SEALS for 16 years and was recruited by the CIA as “a special agent for the Office of Security.” As a SEAL, Smith served in Iraq and earned a Bronze Star with V for heroism in combat and received a Special Operations Medic of the Year award. With the CIA, he provided security for U.S. and foreign clients in war-zone environments, including Afghanistan, Haiti, Pakistan, Africa and Latin America, the website says.
The case was developed by the DEA and its state Tactical Diversion Squad, which includes officers from Richland County, Columbia police and the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s office. The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations also assisted.
©2017 The State (Columbia, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The commander of the Marine Corps' Wounded Warrior Regiment has been relieved over a loss of "trust and confidence in his ability to lead" amid an investigation into his conduct, a Corps official told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
Col. Lawrence F. Miller was removed from his post on Thursday morning and replaced with his executive officer, Lt. Col. Larry Coleman, who will serve as interim commander of the Quantico, Virginia based unit.
President Donald Trump has nixed any effort by the Navy to excommunicate Eddie Gallagher from the SEAL community.
"The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin," the president tweeted on Thursday. "This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!"
The Army has identified the two soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Wednesday as 33-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, and 25-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr.
Do you find yourself wishing for a way to dish out hundreds of rubber bands in a matter of seconds? Do you have disposable income, and no sense of shame about being an adult who blows their pay on toys? And do you randomly quote lines from 80s and early 90s action flicks?
Two airmen from Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, were killed on Thursday when two T-38 Talon training aircraft crashed during training mission, according to a message posted on the base's Facebook age.
The two airmen's names are being withheld pending next of kin notification.
A total of four airmen were onboard the aircraft at the time of the incident, base officials had previously announced.
The medical conditions for the other two people involved in the crash was not immediately known.
An investigation will be launched to determine the cause of the crash.
Emergency responders from Vance Air Force Base are at the crash scene to treat casualties and help with recovery efforts.
Read the entire message below:
VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Two Vance Air Force Base Airmen were killed in an aircraft mishap at approximately 9:10 a.m. today.
At the time of the accident, the aircraft were performing a training mission.
Vance emergency response personnel are on scene to treat casualties and assist in recovery efforts.
Names of the deceased will be withheld pending next of kin notification.
A safety investigation team will investigate the incident.
Additional details will be provided as information becomes available. #VanceUpdates.
This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as more information is released.