Crime

No jail time for prominent jeweler who ran marijuana trafficking operation

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - A prominent jeweler who was captured on video selling large amounts of marijuana and butane oil to an undercover officer on multiple occasions has agreed to plead guilty to multiple drug charges, but will not serve any prison time.

Under a plea deal struck with the Rhode Island attorney general's office, Joseph Esposito will receive a five-year suspended sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, two counts of delivery of a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy.

Esposito, 71, also agreed to forfeit $900,000 in restitution and seized assets that prosecutors say he obtained through the sale of marijuana.

Another man, Timothy Hunter, was also charged in the investigation. His case is pending, according to the attorney general's office.

According to a State Police affidavit, detectives conducted five months of surveillance at Esposito's business as well as two homes he owns in Narragansett and on Providence's East Side. On June 20, an undercover officer purchased marijuana oil directly from Esposito inside the business. The exchange was captured on a video recording, according to state police.

The affidavit states marijuana purchases were also made directly from Esposito on June 23, Aug. 7, Aug. 10 and Aug. 31. During the Aug. 7 sale, Hunter was present. Hunter was surreptitiously recorded explaining that he had mailed 10,000 packages of marijuana from California to Esposito over the last eight years.

A search warrant executed at a Dupont Drive building owned by Esposito turned up 126 mature marijuana plants, 33 pounds of marijuana, four tubs of marijuana oil and other drug paraphernalia. Police also seized more than $60,000, two vehicles and a motorcycle, records show.

Esposito is well-known in Rhode Island political circles, having contributed at least $35,000 to mostly Democrats in recent years. After the arrest, Gov. Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and House Majority Leader Jos Shekarchi all said they would donate any of Esposito's contributions if he was convicted.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowanTim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook 

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