SEATTLE – Two Snohomish County lawyers awaiting sentencing for helping hide drug money also assisted a drug kingpin search for more than $1 million in missing marijuana, a federal judge was told Friday, Nov. 18.
James Lloyd White, 49, was a defense attorney who worked part-time as an Edmonds Municipal Court judge. A. Mark Vanderveen, 46, is a former Snohomish County deputy prosecutor who worked as a defense attorney in Shoreline.
The two earlier this year assisted admitted drug trafficker Robert V. Kesling, 27, formerly of Woodinville, search for 450 pounds of potent “B.C. bud” marijuana that Kesling believed had been stolen by others in his ring, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Friedman said.
The conspirators did not know the pot had been quietly seized by federal agents during a search of a storage trailer March 1, Friedman told U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez.
Investigators were surprised at the steps the lawyers took to assist the drug traffickers in their search for the missing pot, Friedman told the judge.
“The government was, for lack of a better term, shocked that this was occurring,” he said.
Friedman talked about the lawyers’ misdeeds during a sentencing hearing Friday for Wesley Kenneth Cornett, 28. The Shoreline man was a low-level courier for a group that transported large amounts of marijuana, cocaine and cash in both directions across the U.S.-Canada border. He cooperated with authorities after his arrest.
Vanderveen was Cornett’s attorney. During the investigation, federal agents secretly recorded Vanderveen asking the drug courier if he knew what had happened to the missing marijuana. The judge was told Vanderveen later arranged for Cornett to take a lie-detector test.
Federal agents, meanwhile, spotted White conducting covert surveillance on Cornett, presumably to determine if the man was talking to police, Friedman said.
White and Kesling also were present for the lie-detector test, but the polygrapher refused after learning what the lawyers wanted explored on the drug-trafficker’s behalf, Friedman told the judge.
White earlier admitted accepting a backpack from Kesling containing $100,000. The lawyer acknowledged hiding most of the drug money in his house and using $20,000 to hire Vanderveen.
The lawyers hid the arrangement, with White leaving $10,000 in a brown paper bag for Vanderveen at the Edmonds courthouse and passing along another $10,000 in a parking-lot meeting, according to court papers.
Both men face December sentencing hearings.
White could go to federal prison for up to 20 years, although a two-year sentence is more likely. Vanderveen likely faces six months or less in prison.
Scott North is a reporter for The Herald in Everett.