drug-ring pleas

U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Camden.

CAMDEN — A Texas man who allegedly built a “five-star doomsday” bunker outside Dallas was sentenced to 15 months in prison Monday in New Jersey for conspiring to launder $200,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

John Eckerd, 55, of McKinney, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb. Eckerd and his conspirator, Anthony Romano, 53, of Springfield, New Jersey, were strung along by an undercover agent who met with them in “various locations” in Atlantic County from September 2017 to December 2017 to make 10 money laundering transactions, court documents show.

The agent told them the money was made selling narcotics for a South American cartel.

Initially, Romano, who was recently sentenced to 54 months in prison for conspiring to launder more than $590,000, would receive bags of cash in exchange for business checks, minus a fee, from shell companies set up to disguise the nature of the transaction.

About 20 days after first meeting the agent, Romano suggested they could launder larger sums through his associate in Texas, Eckerd, who was building an underground bunker development for wealthy people billed as capable of withstanding anything from a viral epidemic to nuclear war, according to documents in the case.

The sums of money grew, and in January 2018, Romano was handed $100,000 and wired the money, minus a fee, to the agent instead of handing over a business check.

Eckerd and Romano each received three years of supervised release.

Contact: 609-272-7260

cshaw@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

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