DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Illinois

For Immediate Release

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Zachary T. Fardon
, United States Attorney

Evanston Man Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison for Distributing Marijuana and Laundering the Proceeds Through Luxury Auto Purchases

CHICAGO — The leader of a drug trafficking organization was sentenced today to eight years in prison for distributing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and laundering the proceeds through luxury auto purchases and high-end property leases.

JONATHAN TANKSON, 32, of Evanston, coordinated bulk shipments of marijuana from large-scale growers in California.  Between December 2010 and December 2013, Tankson flew to California at least twice per month, typically bringing with him on the plane $400,000 to $500,000 in cash.  He often purchased 100 to 200 pounds of marijuana at a time, with the drugs being shipped on vans and tractor trailers to stash houses in Chicago.  One of the stash houses was located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, while another was set up in a penthouse apartment in the city’s River West neighborhood.

Tankson pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly imposed the 96-month sentence in federal court in Chicago.

“The seriousness of defendant’s drug trafficking and money laundering crimes cannot be overstated,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kartik K. Raman argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.  “For several years, defendant plagued the community by directly purchasing wholesale quantities of marijuana from growers in California, in order to sell the drug on the streets for profit.”

According to a written plea agreement, Tankson used drug proceeds to purchase several luxury automobiles through straw purchasers.  Between June 2011 and December 2013, Tankson orchestrated the purchases of a Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle for $140,000, a Mercedes-Benz S63 sedan for $108,000, of which $75,000 was paid in cash after trading in another Mercedes, an Audi A8 sedan for $80,000, and several other expensive vehicles.  Tankson acknowledged in the plea agreement that the auto transactions were intended to conceal the source of the drug proceeds.

Tankson was arrested in December 2013.  During a search of his Lincoln Park stash house, law enforcement discovered more than $1 million in cash, approximately 75 kilograms of cannabis stuffed into numerous plastic bags, five suitcases filled with cannabis, 20 rounds of 9mm ammunition, and two 9mm pistol magazines, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. 

Investigators thereafter began an extensive money laundering investigation that led to the convictions of two Chicago residents.  SONGHANE TRAORE orchestrated the straw purchases of Tankson’s vehicles, while JEROME B. MARSHALL helped Tankson fraudulently lease the Lincoln Park home.  Judge Kennelly will sentence Traore on Sept. 8, 2016, and Marshall on Sept. 15, 2016.

Tankson’s sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffery Magee, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; and Eddie T. Johnson, Chicago Police Superintendent.

The government is represented by Mr. Raman.

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Field Division: Chicago Field Division