Bellingham drug ring leader stripped of life of luxury, heads to prison

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 15, 2014 

A Bellingham man must serve five years in prison after federal agents caught him spending drug money on a fleet of luxury cars, boats, personal watercraft, motorcycles and snowmobiles, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday, April 14.

Out of the eight defendants in the case, Scott Johnson, 48, reaped the most benefits from a drug-running ring that sent huge shipments of Whatcom County-grown marijuana to New York in recent years, according to charging papers. In one scheme Johnson directed a man to drive a motor home full of pot across the continental U.S. to make a delivery, according to court records.

"Mr. Johnson and his family lived a very pleasant lifestyle thanks to his illegal activity," federal prosecutors wrote in U.S. District Court documents.

Court records show he raked in enough profits to buy:

-A white 2012 Chevy Silverado 2500 LTZ;

-A black 2009 Mercedes Benz GL550;

-A silver 2009 Acura TL sedan;

-A blue 2008 Honda Civic;

-A black 2007 BMW 328i sedan;

-A blue 2004 Cadillac Escalade SUV;

-A white 1997 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer SUV;

-A Maxum 2300 SC speed boat;

-A forklift, a backhoe, a tractor and a Buhler Y740 snowblower;

-Two motorcycles: a black 2008 Yamaha FJR1300 and a Honda Shadow;

-Two Yamaha Wave Runners;

-Six Polaris snowmobiles and one Arctic Cat;

-Fourteen gemstones (valued at $9,200);

-Seventeen firearms (12-gauge shotguns, rifles with scopes and two Ruger revolvers), and a suit of body armor.

He had to forfeit all of it - along with a vacation home by Priest River in Idaho, two storage units and what's left in his U.S. Bank account - as part of a plea bargain. His family's home, a $500,000 house on Racine Street in Bellingham, isn't listed among the properties he has to surrender.

Johnson, a former high school dropout, went on to a successful career as the owner of the Top of the Towers restaurant in Bellingham in the '90s. He sold the business in 2001 and tried to start a charter airline, SkyCorp, but the business failed in 2010, according to a sentencing memorandum. All of Johnson's criminal history dated back at least 20 years: two DUI arrests and a misdemeanor for growing marijuana in the '80s. (One DUI and the drug conviction were later expunged from his record.)

Johnson pleaded guilty in November to money laundering and conspiring to manufacture and distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana plants.

U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart sentenced Johnson's right-hand man, Jay Wright, 50, to three years in prison Monday. Wright helped run the marijuana grow-ops and, according to prosecutors, was considered Johnson's "number two."

Other defendants in the case were given lesser sentences, ranging from two months to 20 months in prison.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service