A narrative involving narcotics and an unwitting landscaper has finally come to a close after 11 years.
What started out as a simple request to move some dirt in 2005 turned into more than $20,000 of work for a Spearfish, South Dakota, landscaper. The client, Frederick Tucker, was a recently retired narcotics agent from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
As part of the job, Tucker had the landscaper construct a large hidden vault that could be reached from the garage. Tucker paid the landscaper in cash and they became friends as the landscaper continued to improve the landscape and clean up the property.
“He was a nice guy when I met him,” the landscaper, whose name is not being used, told Rapid City Journal. “He was a retired police officer. How could you go wrong with being friends with a guy like that?”
As their friendship continued over the years, the landscaper noticed that some of Tucker’s actions seemed very dubious. Years later, the landscaper became a crucial witness in a drug investigation – code named “All Tuckered Out” – that sent Tucker and his son to prison.
The landscaper fears retribution from Tucker and his associates. He left South Dakota before contacting authorities with his suspicions about his client.
Tucker asked the landscaper to do him several odd favors in the past, such as moving a special mattress, but in 2010 or 2011, the landscaper told police, Tucker approached him directly with an offer to get involved.
“One afternoon, Fred asked me if I wanted to make $50,000 for a road trip,” he said. “I asked him how and he said I’d need to get a load of marijuana in California and haul it to North Carolina. I told him to stick it, but he kept trying to get me involved in his drug scheme.”
The landscaper tried to sever all ties with Tucker, according to the Rapid City newspaper, but discovered that was going to be complicated after finding the drug dealer waiting for him inside the landscaper’s house, trying again to persuade him to join in his scheme.
“You hang around a guy like that and you’re going to get yourself in trouble,” he said. “He tried to get me involved in his little scheme, but I didn’t even want him driving in my yard anymore.”
In 2008, Tucker’s son Ryan, who was also involved with the drug trafficking, shot and killed an intruder who was attempting to steal illegal contraband, according to police. When the landscaper heard of this in the news, he began to suspect “simply saying no” wasn’t his safest option.
After moving to a neighboring state in 2013, the landscaper reached out to authorities and soon U.S. Marshals arrived at his new home requesting him to appear before a grand jury to testify against Tucker.
He told the grand jury about Tucker’s offer to him and the underground vault he helped install. Tucker and his son had been in law enforcement’s sights for a while, but the landscaper’s testimony helped seal the case.
The federal charges that resulted were for transporting more than a ton of marijuana and 10 pounds of cocaine, along with laundering more than $1.7 million in drug trafficking money.
When it was all said and done, Frederick Tucker was arrested in 2014 and sentenced on Dec. 3, 2015, to 37 months in federal prison and an additional three years of supervised release.
Ryan Tucker, the leader of the drug trafficking network, was sentenced Feb. 23, 2016, to 292 months, or just over 24 years, in federal prison and 10 years of supervised release.
Reflecting on the situation a month later, the landscaper isn’t certain he would have responded the same way if he had known what his former friend was up to.
“Nope, I don’t feel very good about it at all,” he told the South Dakota newspaper. “If I had to do it all over again, I don’t think I would do it. Right now, I have all my guns loaded, and I think they’ll stay that way.”