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Ashland man admits to laundering pot money

An Ashland man who oversaw a network of Southern Oregon bank accounts used to move money clandestinely from marijuana buyers on the East Coast to growers in Northern California has pleaded guilty to a federal money laundering charge.

Prosecutors say Jonathan Robert Quaccia, 35, of Ashland, worked with Matthew Correa of Medford to recruit Southern Oregon residents to create bank accounts that moved $2.2 million in drug proceeds between June 2012 and February 2014.

Quaccia, who previously lived in Humboldt County, sent pounds of marijuana from California to New York and Georgia via the mail, according to information in the plea agreement filed Nov. 9 in federal court. The documents say Quaccia and Correa would arrange deposits of less than $10,000 in New York and Georgia, keeping the amount below the threshold that must be reported to the IRS. Then the conspiring bank account holders in Southern Oregon would withdraw the money and allegedly deliver it to Correa for $150 per transaction. The plea agreement says Correa would then deliver the cash in person to Quaccia in California.

Transactions were kept less than $10,000 to avoid detection, and the scheme was meant to obscure where and why the money was being paid, prosecutors said. The Southern Oregon account holders named in the case include Correa's mother, Margaret Correa of Phoenix, Spencer Note and Stephanie Michaelle Ryden of Medford. Bank records show $2.2 million in marijuana proceeds were deposited in the suspects' accounts between June 2012 and February 2014.

Note pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme in October, and he agreed to forfeit the $12,750 he was paid for 85 transactions that totaled $651,000.

Ryden pleaded guilty Monday and agreed to forfeit the $6,150 she was paid for 41 transactions that totaled $343,000.

Court documents allege that Matthew Correa was involved in 24 transactions totaling $183,000 and was linked to at least 55 transactions involving others. Margaret Correa of Phoenix is accused of participating in 57 transactions totaling $481,000. 

As part of Quaccia's plea agreement, he will forfeit his 2013 Honda Accord, his Toyota Tacoma pickup and $100,000, all of which he admits were proceeds of his laundering activity or were used in his criminal activity.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration seized two Northern California properties they said were used as grow sites by Quaccia and Correa earlier this year, one in Salyer and the other in McKinleyville. Quaccia owned the McKinleyville site, which he purchased in 2011 for $330,000. Although Correa purchased the Salyer site for $195,000 in 2013 at Quaccia's request for a grow site, the DEA reported Correa told agents during questioning that he had never been to the property and that Quaccia paid the down payment on the Salyer property with marijuana funds.

Search warrants were first served on those properties, as well as Margaret Correa's home in the 200 block of Rose Street, Phoenix, on Jan. 7. Agents seized about 850 marijuana plants and about 57 pounds of dried marijuana; 139 of those plants were at the Phoenix house.

According to release agreements filed in federal court, Quaccia and Matthew Correa were released from jail on Nov. 9, and Ryden was released on Nov. 16.  Note was released on Oct. 26. Matthew Correa's plea change hearing is set for Nov. 23.  Margaret Correa has yet to plead in the case.

A sentencing hearing hasn't been scheduled yet, but the maximum sentence on the federal charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine. Quaccia faces a minimum of 52 months in prison, according to U.S. sentencing guidelines. Ryden faces a minimum 12 months in prison. Note faces a minimum 21 months in prison.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.