DEA investigation that resulted in recent grand jury indictments was started by Ozaukee authorities last year
The investigation into a Milwaukee North Shore drug trafficking and money laundering operation that was busted by federal authorities last week began a year ago when the Ozaukee County Sheriffâs Department uncovered a large marijuana distribution operation in Saukville, Lt. Rodney Galbraith said this week.
The local probe, which evolved into a regional case headed by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration and led to federal indictments against six people, dates to September 2012, when the Ozaukee Sheriffâs Department Anti-Drug Task Force began investigating Saukville resident Paul Heiniger, said Galbraith, who oversees the countyâs drug unit and detective bureau.
Heiniger was one of the people indicted last week for drug trafficking.
âWe obtained information that led us to believe there was a major marijuana distribution ring operating in Saukville,â he said. âPaul Heiniger was living in Saukville at the time, and we believe he was receiving and distributing marijuana in the county.â
Heiniger led authorities to Edward G. Patterson, 38, of Whitefish Bay, who was part of a conspiracy to transport large quantities of marijuana from California to Wisconsin and sell it, then launder the proceeds through McDonaldâs restaurants he owns in Mequon, Fox Point and Glendale, according to the indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
âAfter several months of collecting our facts, we realized we needed assistance from agencies with the resources to handle a complicated conspiracy and money laundering case,â Galbraith said.
Ozaukee County authorities, who had been working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to take the lead on the investigation in late 2012 or early 2013 but remained involved in the case, he said. Det. Marshall Hermann, the county drug unitâs lead investigator, was appointed to a DEA regional task force and worked on the case.
âWe didnât simply hand this case off to the DEA,â Galbraith said. âWe worked it from beginning to end.â
Referring to last Wednesday, when the DEA executed 16 search warrants involving the six people who were indicted, Galbraith said, âWeâre talking about a minimum of 100 to 150 officers involved in what occurred on the 16th.
âA case of this magnitude has rarely, if ever, been seen around here.â
Officers who executed the warrants seized several pounds of marijuana, 11 firearms and roughly $90,000 in cash, according to authorities.
Galbraith said the case illustrates the scope of the drug problem, both locally and regionally, and the types of resources that can be brought to bear in the war on drugs.
âI think itâs important that people in our communities realize that these are the type of cases that are occurring in and around their neighborhoods,â he said. âAnd they can feel good about the fact that various agencies are able to combine resources to fight the drug problem and protect the quality of life we enjoy here.â
Heiniger, 42, who during the course of the investigation moved from Saukville to Willits, Calif., is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and use of the mail service to facilitate possession with intent to deliver marijuana.
In addition to conspiracy to distribute marijuana, Patterson is charged with money laundering, use of the mail service to facilitate possession with intent to deliver marijuana, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possession with intent to deliver hydrocondone.
Other people charged in connection with the case are Kevin Breitzman of Glendale, Paul Markiewicz of Waukesha, Andrea Marquardt of Pewaukee and John Webler of Milwaukee.
The investigation is ongoing, Galbraith said.