Two Columbia men received punishment on Wednesday for selling marijuana connected to a 2017 killing.

Blake Johnson, considered by federal prosecutors to be Augustus “Gus” Roberts’ “principal lieutenant” in a nationwide drug operation, received ten years of prison time.

Johnson is one of several people to admit to selling marijuana as part of a nationwide operation. Roberts, who law enforcement believes was a major distributor of the aproduct in mid-Missouri, was killed in a home invasion in the Old Hawthorne neighborhood in December 2017. While federal prosecutors have charged dozens of people across the country, no one has yet faced charges for killing Roberts.

Johnson’s plea agreement said that a UHaul truck rented in his name was parked in Roberts’ driveway the night of the murder. Someone stole the UHaul in that incident, but law enforcement said it had 800 pounds of marijuana in it. Columbia police later found the UHaul with bags filled with marijuana, thousands of THC vapor cartridges and electric money counting machines.

Johnson helped set up the marijuana sales throughout Boone County. The plea agreement said he would get the product from Roberts, then hand it off to various sellers in the area.

The plea agreement said that Johnson used some of the money made to pay for a house on Madison Park Drive in southwest Columbia. The government seized that home as part of an asset forfeiture agreement, along with $85,690 found on Johnson during his arrest and at Roberts’ murder scene.

Nawel Girma was one of Johnson’s sellers, and received a five-year probation term in a separate hearing. Girma admitted to working with Roberts and Johnson between 2016 and 2018 to sell marijuana. Law enforcement seized three guns, a 2014 Maserati Ghibli and more than $130,000 from Girma. The car and cash will be taken as part of the federal asset forfeiture.

Girma’s attorney, John Schleiffarth, said his client wanted to get back to continuing college in Columbia.

“Mr. Girma looks forward to continuing the course he has set while on bond of reforming his life and completing his college education,” Schleiffarth said.

Christopher Bradshaw of Harrisburg received a 41-month prison sentence for buying and selling marijuana from Johnson. Bradshaw admitted to taking several boxes from Johnson the night after Roberts’ killing. Bradshaw burned them several days later when he learned what happened to Roberts.


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