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Fugitives in Sonar-linked pot conspiracy arrested in Canada

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Matt Nicka was arrested at a ferry terminal near Vancouver, British Columbia

Since December 2010, when a federal grand jury in Maryland indicted a Baltimore-based crew for a decade-long $30-million cross-country pot-trafficking operation, lead defendant Matt Nicka and his assistant, Gretchen Peterson, had managed to avoid their days in court. On Aug. 5, their status as fugitives ended when Canadian authorities arrested the couple at a ferry terminal near Vancouver, British Columbia, according to media coverage, and they are being detained as Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board considers their case.

The conspiracy case has been covered extensively by City Paper over the years, and among its 16 members is Daniel McIntosh, co-owner of the now-defunct Sonar nightclub in downtown Baltimore and McCabe’s Tavern in Hampden. Prosecutors allege that Nicka was a silent partner in Sonar and formed a company that owned a house at the dead end of Clarkdale Road, near Television Hill, where large amounts of weed and cash were allegedly processed, repackaged, and distributed.

The money-counting operation allegedly overseen by Nicka at the Clarkdale house was described in court documents as going on “three to four times a week,” during which cash was “bundled into $50,000 increments” and then put in envelopes “in $300,000 increments.”

During McIntosh’s trial last fall, after which a jury found him guilty of many of the charges against him, evidence emerged that Nicka, during one 18-month stretch of the operation, made $16 million. But a former pot-dealing associate of the Nicka conspiracy puts its revenues much higher, estimating that entire scheme pulled in $150 to $200 million a year.

McIntosh and Keegan Leahy, a pilot, were the only two defendants to take the case to trial, and both were convicted. Ten others pleaded guilty, including Baltimore real estate developer Jeremy Landsman of JBL Real Estate. With the capture of Nicka and Peterson, only two other defendants—David D’Amico and Jeffrey Putney—remain at large.

The U.S. Marshals Service publicized its efforts to find Nicka and Peterson in January, when it teamed up with the Washington Examiner to name them among Washington, D.C.’s “most wanted” fugitives. A late-June update said Nicka “was recently spotted by Canadian authorities,” but “was able to run away after getting chased,” adding that “they think he . . . headed to Richmond, B.C., which is near the Vancouver airport.”

On June 29, according to Canadian press coverage, authorities raided a residence where Nicka and Peterson allegedly had been living in Coquitlam, near Vancouver, and “found marijuana and equipment and ingredients commonly found in a meth lab.”

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