A key figure in a multimillion-dollar marijuana operation that involved smuggling, treachery and murder pleaded guilty Friday to three federal counts of conspiracy and money laundering, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Thomas Ranes, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana importation conspiracy, one count of money laundering and one count of international money laundering, prosecutors said.
The drug ring imported and distributed more than a ton of "BC Bud" from Canada between early 2003 and April 2006, according to prosecutors.
An Anchorage real-estate investor, Thomas Cody, and his partner, Joe Bryant -- who killed himself in 2006 -- started the business around 2000, smuggling mostly marijuana along with some ecstasy, across the Canadian border in hidden truck compartments, according to the government.
Ranes started off small-time in the drug ring, first welding the secret panels onto trucks but then working his way up to a lieutenant of the supply side of the business, prosecutors said.
But as he moved up, friction, mostly fueled by money, started between Ranes and Cody, prosecutors said. After he led a botched drug run that cost the business more than $1 million, Ranes told his business partner, Dennis Shine, that Cody had been threatening them, Shine told prosecutors.
The men began plotting to kill Cody and take over the business, prosecutors said.
Shine custom-built a homemade silencer for a 9 mm Beretta at an auto shop he co-owned with Ranes and shot Cody dead in June 2005 inside the man's Hillside home, according to a plea agreement Shine signed.
Shine drove the body to the Matanuska Valley and ditched it near Jim Creek with Ranes' help, he told prosecutors. Cody's body was recovered last July, more than two years after his disappearance.
After Cody's death, Ranes began laundering drug money and took charge of organizing shipments and arranging deliveries, prosecutors said.
Shine pleaded guilty in November to charges of murder and conspiracy and is facing about 30 years in prison for his role in the 2005 shooting death of Thomas Cody in his home.
As part of Ranes' deal, he also forfeited his interest in several million dollars of guns, vehicles, property and cash. He will remain in custody pending sentencing in April.
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.
By JAMES HALPIN