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Feds arrest 10 in New Hampshire marijuana trafficking bust

By Ted Siefer

CONCORD N.H. (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors said on Monday they had arrested 10 men they contended were running a New Hampshire drug ring, and added they were looking for four others suspected of trafficking in marijuana and other drugs.

Prosecutors said the move signaled in part they would aggressively combat sales of marijuana, even as a growing number of U.S. states and cities move to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug in some circumstances.

"It's important for the public to understand that we will go after all organized drug distribution rings, regardless of the drug," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Feith told reporters. He said the group also dealt cocaine and the club drug MDMA, known colloquially as "Molly."

New Hampshire is one of more than 20 U.S. states to have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, although it remains illegal for those who do not a doctor's prescription. Cannabis is illegal for any purpose under federal law.

Authorities showed pictures of 30 pounds (14 kg) of marijuana, $85,000 in cash and several firearms including a machine gun with a silencer they said were seized in raids last week.

The investigation dated back to March 2008, when Oklahoma police pulled over a truck with New Hampshire plates and discovered more than $2 million in cash hidden in door panels, according to court papers.

Prosecutors said the driver of the truck was part of a drug trafficking operation that smuggled marijuana from Canada across the Northeastern United States and also bought cocaine in California, which it smuggled back into Canada, prosecutors said.

The 10 men arrested were all New Hampshire residents. Feith said the leaders of the ring were Alkis Nakos, 35, and Kosmos Koustas, 35.

Four suspected members of the ring are still at large, Feith said.

Attorneys for Nakos and Koustas were unavailable for comment on Monday.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)

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