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Multi-state drug ring busted in Kent County

12:46 PM, Feb 15, 2010   |    comments
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  • Photo courtesy KANET
  • Robert Whitcomb
  • Photo courtesy KANET
  • Photo courtesy KANET
  • Photo courtesy of KANET - Leroy, Michigan home
  • Photo courtesy KANET
  • Photo courtesy of KANET
  • Photo courtesy KANET - Tower Lake home in Belding
  • Photo courtesy KANET

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Local law enforcement, the DEA and U.S. Attorney's Office have dismantled a multi-state marijuana trafficking organization that was centered in Kent County.

The Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (KANET) says that the organization was responsible for distributing over 3,000 pounds of marijuana since 2008, valued at least $3.6 million.  The marijuana was being sold in pound packages in Kent County and Leroy, Michigan.  

Over $240,000 in cash, two homes, 35 guns and several vehicles were seized by law enforcement.  Eight people have been indicted on federal drug trafficking charges, including a supplier from New Mexico, who officials say supplied Michigan and New York organizations.

One of the homes seized is a five-year old lakefront home on Tower Lake in Belding.  The other home is a 3-year old home on ten acres in Leroy, which also had commercial safes built into the basement and a 60x40 pole barn which held the marijuana and cash.

The eight people indicted on the federal charges in the ring are:

  • Timothy Vangessel, Belding, pleaded guilty.
  • Mario Dimambro, Leroy, pleaded guilty.
  • Dorian Brandt, Caledonia, pleaded guilty.
  • Justin Westhuis, Grand Rapids, pleaded guilty.
  • Robert Whitcomb, Wyoming, pleaded guilty
  • Anthony Vangessel, indicted.
  • Rene Jimenez-Saenz, Albuquerque, NM, indicted.
  • Lizzette Blanchard, pleaded guilty.

Thomas Koryto has been charged by the Kent County Prosecutor for possession with intent to deliver marijuana and maintaining a drug house.

Officials say that Timothy Vangessel was involved in over 20 trips to Albuquerque, NM, where he would purchase loads of marijuana, ranging from 50 - 250 pounds, from Rene Jimenez-Saenz and drive them back to his Belding home.  The marijuana was then sold to other dealers in Michigan, including Mario Dimambro of Leroy, Justin Westhuis of Grand Rapids, and Dorian Brandt of Caledonia.

Vangessel and the dealers began to recruit couriers, which included Lizzette Blanchard and Anthony Vangessel.  Robert Whitcomb was also a courier, but was caught on his first trip in Nebraska in 2008 with 200 pounds of marijuana destined for the operation.  Charges against Whitcomb were dropped in Nebraska in February of 2009.

Searches were made by law enforcement in Grand Rapids, Belding, Leroy, Comstock Park, Cadillac, Sand Lake, and Kentwood, as well as Albuquerque, NM.

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