Ex-Detroit state rep sentenced for role in drug ring

The Detroit News
  • Daniels convicted after one of Metro Detroit’s biggest drug trials
  • Fez-wearing co-defendants fled after guilty verdict, launched national manhunt

A former state representative from Detroit was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison after having been found guilty of structuring financial transactions during one of the region’s biggest drug trials, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.

Kenneth Daniels, 56, was convicted this year after a jury trial with co-defendants Carlos Powell, Eric Powell and Earnest Proge in U.S. District Court in May.

Evidence presented at trial claimed that Daniels, who was vice chairman of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee while in the state Legislature, supported Powell’s major drug operation by making multiple financial transactions to hide Powell’s illegal activities from authorities, officials said.

That operation generated tens of millions of dollars and was responsible for importing hundreds of kilograms of heroin and cocaine, and thousands of pounds of marijuana from Mexico, prosecutors said.

During a years-long investigation headed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, agents seized 66 pounds of heroin, 12 kilograms of cocaine, 1,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $21 million in cash.

“Daniels received $19,000 from Carlos Powell, broke those funds into two smaller amounts, and went to two separate banks to obtain cashier checks in an attempt to evade legal requirements to report transactions exceeding $10,000,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Thursday.

“Daniels returned the checks to Powell, who used the funds to purchase a Mercedes. The jury found that Daniels structured these financial transactions for Powell so that Powell’s finances would not be scrutinized.”

The case was notable for the size and scope of Carlos Powell’s drug ring and because he, his brother Eric and Proge drew national attention for wearing fezzes in court every day during the two-week trial.

When Carlos Powell learned there was a verdict May 12 that could lead to life in prison, court officials said he cut his ankle tether and disappeared. His brother and Proge also fled.

In the wake of a nationwide manhunt, Carlos Powell was arrested June 4 near St. Louis, Mo.; his brother was arrested June 4 near Atlanta, Ga.; and Proge was arrested June 18 in St. Louis.