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Man gets 20 years for selling 16,000 pounds of pot

TAMPA — A Pinellas man who once was a promising minor league baseball player was sentenced to 20 years in prison for helping to bring more than 16,000 pounds of marijuana to the Tampa Bay area, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

Leon J. Wood, 61, of Tarpon Springs was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana and possession of a gun in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Wood, who pleaded guilty in February, also forfeited five guns, 700 rounds of ammunition, five houses, 36 U.S. gold coins, a 2003 Lexus sport utility vehicle and more than $1 million in cash. The U.S. Attorney's Office says all were linked to drug profits.

A defense attorney said in court filings that Wood agreed to forfeit four of the homes even though they were "purchased by legitimate means."

The drug ring that Wood financed employed couriers who traveled to Arizona between 2003 and 2010 and returned to Pinellas with 200- and 220-pound loads of marijuana, according to federal prosecutors.

But one of those drug couriers informed Pinellas sheriff's investigators. When authorities raided Wood's home, they found nearly $980,000 in a floor safe, court records show.

Six other co-defendants already have been sentenced in the case to prison terms ranging from three to 15 years.

Wood, who has two previous drug offenses on his record, played minor league baseball from 1971 to 1974. In 1972, Wood was an outfielder and the second-leading hitter on the Daytona Beach Dodgers in the Class A Florida State League, hitting a career-best .310.

It is unclear why he left baseball at age 24.

Reach William R. Levesque at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Man gets 20 years for selling 16,000 pounds of pot 09/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 15, 2011 1:03am]

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