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Third man in cross-country marijuana ring pleads guilty

Justin Stevens, 31, of Buffalo, the third of three men involved in a once-lucrative but short-lived California-to-Buffalo marijuana distribution ring, pleaded guilty Monday before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to money laundering conspiracy.

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., said Stevens faces a federal prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000 when he is sentenced Jan. 27.

Stevens’ accomplices, James Parish, 31, of Carlsbad, California and Benjamin Golembiewski, 28,of Buffalo both pleaded guilty last month and face similar multi-year prison terms and stiff criminal fine when both are sentenced Dec. 9. The marijuana ring was broken up by combined work of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the prosecutor said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank T. Pimental said that between January 2014 and last Sept. 30 the two Buffalo men obtained marijuana shipments from Parish and the scheme netted the three suspects at least $800,000.