Johnston Co. attorney pleads guilty in pot-growing scheme

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A Johnston County attorney who is accused of leading a marijuana-growing operation in the Triangle has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements to financial institutions.

Joseph Lee Levinson, who is from Raleigh and has an office in Johnston County, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Levinson faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced May 19 in Winston-Salem.

The government has accused Levinson of receiving cash and drugs as payment during the operation.

According to the indictment, Aubrey Manasseh Pruitt, Dustin Garrett Fisher and Jotham Walker Pruitt operated a marijuana “grow” business in Orange County from December 2005 to around December 2010. The indictment lists six different houses that were used to grow marijuana indoors.

The operation was funded by several investors, the government claims, and Levinson took $10,000 from those investors for himself.

The government said Levinson used his law office to help with the fraudulent paperwork needed to get the “grow homes”.

It said Fisher grew the marijuana in the houses obtained by Levinson and Jotham Pruitt.

They were purchased ostensibly as rental homes, but the true nature of the houses was concealed from the banks when loans were obtained, the government said.

Investigators say the men generated close to $2 million in cash. They say the plan was to use the drug profits to pay for materials and the mortgages on the houses.

The indictment says the group used a company called Ramses Investments as a front to conceal the funds and promote the drug operation.

The operation ceased in December 2010.



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