Dennis Hunter was a major cocaine trafficker in Dayton in the 1990s.
Now, he has been sentenced to prison again, this time for marijuana trafficking.
Hunter, 53, has tried twice to turn his life around, but he got involved into marijuana trafficking as he has transitioned to construction and real estate development, according to U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice.
So even though Rice said he believes Hunter is ready to leave behind his drug dealing, the judge said he could not justify sentencing Hunter to probation during his hearing on Wednesday.
No prison time would make a “mockery” of the case, Rice said when he sentenced Hunter to 30 months in prison for a case that began with an indictment of Hunter and his wife Sivan for marijuana trafficking and money trafficking.
“What kind of message would that send?” Rice said. “That’s not the system of justice we have in this country.”
Hunter’s wife was earlier sentenced to probation.
In 1999, Rice sentenced Hunter to a 71 months in prison for a case in which Hunter was indicted for cocaine trafficking and money laundering.
Aside from the 30-month prison term handed down Wednesday, Hunter also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, pay $35,000 in lieu of a Dayton residence, forfeit about $3,000 in cash and three vehicles and perform 100 hours of community service in the first two of his three years of probation after his release.
Rice also ordered Hunter to disclose the property he owns and his sources of income.
The 2015 indictment alleged that Hunter conspired to distribute and possessed with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
Hunter and his wife allegedly laundered the illegal drug proceeds by acquiring various real estate properties, including residences in and around Dayton, where he allegedly stored and sold marijuana. He also allegedly used drug proceeds to repair and improve the homes.
Defense attorney Nicholas Gounaris wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Hunter operates “Hunter Property Solutions.” The business includes rental properties but also building and contracting services such as gutter repair/replacement, painting, roofing, concrete work, lawn care and snow removal.
Gounaris, who advocated for probation for his client, wrote that Hunter’s growing company has five full-time employees and carries even more during seasonal times.
“His last criminal behavior was almost eight years ago, and since that time, Mr. Hunter is proud to say that he’s built up a business that employs others and provides him with an opportunity to care for his family,” Gounaris wrote. “Every day he enjoys working hard and working at an honest law-abiding job.”
The case, which originated in 2015, was delayed in part because of a then-pending receiving stolen property case in Warren County that ultimately was dismissed. Hunter has been under pretrial supervision and had just one violation during that time.
Rice is allowing Hunter — who appeared to faint, causing sentencing to be delayed for a few minutes as court officials and U.S. Marshals tended to him — to voluntarily surrender after his company’s summer seasonal work is complete.
Hunter also earned 50 days of jail-time credit and will be recommended for training in HVAC if that is available at a federal facility close to Dayton.