Originally published June 29, 2012 at 5:16 p.m., updated June 29, 2012 at 9:41 p.m.
Kansas City, Mo. A Kansas man at the center of a large-scale marijuana case allegedly supplied the drug to multiple players from the 2010-11 Kansas University men’s basketball team, a federal prosecutor said.
The Kansas City Star reported Friday that an assistant U.S. attorney made the claim during a June 18 detention hearing for Samuel Villeareal III.
The 32-year-old from Overland Park was among numerous defendants charged June 11 with a scheme to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana in Johnson and Douglas counties.
A court transcript obtained by The Star shows the prosecutor, Terra Moorhead, claimed during the hearing that Villeareal supplied pot to multiple members of the Jayhawks’ squad.
Jonathan Bortnick, Villeareal’s defense attorney, told the Journal-World Friday, “I have no comment other than I’m aware that during the detention hearing that was brought up.”
Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said in an email to the AP that he could confirm that the federal prosecutor stated during a hearing “that the defendant sold marijuana to members of the KU basketball team from the 2010 and 2011 season.” Cross said he couldn’t provide additional information and that Moorhead would be unavailable for comment.
The AP’s attempts to reach Kansas coach Bill Self and associate athletic director Jim Marchiony were unsuccessful. Two players from the team contacted by The Star said they’d never heard of Villeareal, while two others refused to comment.
Morehead told a federal magistrate that prosecutors know who Villeareal was selling to because of text messages obtained from an iPhone seized from his home and from surveillance that was done throughout this investigation, The Star reported.
Morehead said the phone “became kind of a key component to this entire investigation.”
She also described what agents watching Villeareal observed.
“At one occasion law enforcement had Mr. Villeareal this basketball season at the Sprint Center sitting behind the KU basketball bench with a number of the players,” she said. “So we know that he had probably not only a personal relationship with them but a professional relationship as well.”
The 44-page complaint and supporting affidavit contain no information about Villeareal’s alleged connection to basketball players. Instead, the documents outline the extensive investigation that began in 2008 and included the use of court-approved interceptions of cell phone conversations between the alleged conspirators.
The detention hearing concluded with Judge James O’Hara ruling that Villeareal could be released on $25,000 bond but would have to reside at a halfway house until trial. His next hearing is July 30.
Villeareal also was ordered to have no contact with any witnesses or co-defendants, including any of his alleged marijuana customers.
Morehead said: “He obviously knows who those are, and so do we because we have a cellphone and have all of that documentation. And again, we will be monitoring that.”
Kansas University’s internal drug-testing policy requires all freshman or new transfer student athletes to take a drug test “within a reasonable amount of time” after arriving on campus. All teams that qualify for post-season play also may be subject to testing.
The university also conducts unannounced, random testing during the year, according to the policy. Athletes who test positive are required to undergo counseling and are subjected to more frequent testing. The policy does not call for suspension from game competition until after a third positive test.
Villeareal was charged June 11 with 24 other people in Douglas County and Johnson County who face conspiracy charges. Federal authorities accuse the defendants of conspiring to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of high-grade marijuana in the area. It was part of a four-year investigation that included wire taps authorized by U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom’s office has listed eight charged Lawrence residents in the group as Los Rovell Dahda, 30; Roosevelt Rico Dahda, 30; Sadie Jolynn Brown, 25; David James Essman, 35; Mark Lee Romero, 31; Daniel Mark Sieber, 31; Chad Eugene Bauman, 33; and Carey Lynn Willming, 36. If convicted, the defendants face 10 years to life in federal prison and a fine of up to $10 million. Bauman and Willming were owners of Ultimate Tan, 2449 Iowa, that was raided June 13, the same day officers made several arrests in the case.
Villeareal is listed as an Overland Park resident.