Rudolph Dwight Hanchard, a 39-year-old in Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty to a crime involving bribery, marijuana, and the USPS. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo heard the entire case against Hanchard and noted that the defendant faced 15 years in prison, if convicted. Additionally, Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. wrote that Hanchard faced a maximum fine of $250,000 for his crimes.
According to the Acting US Attorney, Hanchard. along with other, unknown conspirators—sold marijuana across the country. Hanchard’s packages came from Arizona and California. One of the crimes the defendant pleaded guilty to lacked a direct connection to marijuana at all. Outside of this case, at least. He admitted to the bribery of a public official. Specifically a USPS employee—one of the known co-conspirators in the case.
The Homeland Security Investigations agent in charge connected the dots while conducting surveillance on Hanchard for marijuana distribution. On September 30,2016, Homeland Security Investigations approached Hanchard as he parked his Jeep and walked towards “premise 1.” At the same time another suspect—unnamed at the time—left the vehicle as well. The second suspect’s name avoided the Criminal Complaint and affidavit but not the scope of HSI agents. Agents approached the primary suspect to confront him and managed to intercept him before he entered “premise 1.”
As the agents caught up with Hanchard, they asked him what his backpack contained. He explained that the backpack in question held cooking tools and that he worked as a chef. He then—voluntarily—allowed the HSI agents to conduct a search of his backpack. “Unzipping the main compartment of the backpack revealed eight boxes of clear plastic zipper bags,” HSI agent Thomas J. Webb wrote in the affidavit. A deeper dive into the backpack revealed something even more incriminating: “a large sum of currency that was rubber banded and folded in a manner consistent with narcotics distribution proceeds.”
“I’m not actually employed,” Hanchard explained, shortly before the agents placed him in handcuffs.
Upon arrival at the police station, after officers read the suspect his Miranda rights, he explained the scenario to a great length. Officers noted that expressed a willingness to cooperate. He explained that the money on his person was money he planned to buy more marijuana with. He then began to explain that, on the day the agents arrested him, he planned to meet up with another entity and conduct a transaction.
When the Grand Jury indictment surfaced, one of the co-conspirators lost any prior anonymity. Briana Fuges, a USPS mail courier, worked for Hanchard. She ensured safe delivery of his packages across the country. And, according to the indictment and Hanchard’s own statements, she stole packages meant for other recipients. She either sold or gave these stolen packages to Hanchard at a price cut. The indictment kept the full details under wraps; it never clarified how she charged Hanchard. In fact, in contrast to the criminal complaint, the indictment only explained that the defendant offered her something both directly and indirectly.
Since she violated federal laws by tampering with mail, failing to deliver it, or simply stealing it, a Judge convicted her of three separate changes: accepting bribes, distribution of marijuana, and delay of mail. The authorities handed both cases differently. Hanchard and Fuges each played a separate role in society. Hanchard pleaded guilty to the bribery of a public official and intent to distribute marijuana.