Darryl Funchess, the dad of NFL hybrid tight end-wide receiver Devin Funchess, was convicted of narcotics trafficking out of Detroit, Michigan in a far-reaching federal drug case known as Operation FedEx 20 years ago this spring. Funchess, an up-and-coming pass catcher for the Carolina Panthers who snared two grabs for 40 yards in last year’s Super Bowl (a 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos), starred in college at the University of Michigan from 2012 through 2014. Carolina selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He grew up in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, attending Farmington Hills Harrison High School, helping take the storied Hawks football team to a state championship in 2010 as a junior.

The elder Funchess, 55, pled guilty to his role in distributing 600 kilos of cocaine and heroin across Michigan’s southeastern and western regions in a a two-year period in the early 1990s. The Operation FedEx bust included multiple phases and an estimated total of 15,000 kilos sold in a narcotics conspiracy based out of Los Angeles and Philadelphia which transported drugs as far north as Detroit and as far south as New Orleans. Indicted in December 1996 in the final phase of the case and facing a maximum of 30 years behind bars, Funchess copped a plea in May 1997. He was released from prison in 2011.

Investigators tagged their drug and money laundering probe Operation FedEx because the cocaine, heroin and cash were being exchanged via FedEx packages. The inquiry began in the spring of 1992 after a package containing $200,000 in hundred-dollar bills accidentally broke open at the Philadelphia International Airport’s FedEx office. That same day FedEx employees in Philly discovered another package with $150,000 cash in it headed to the same address as the one with the $200,000 and contacted the local FBI and DEA.

The investigation eventually led federal authorities to L.A. drug kingpin Teddy Edmonds and Philadelphia-by-way-of-North Carolina beauty Tyria Ekwensi. Using FedEx, Edmonds’ organization in California would ship cocaine and heroin to Ekwensi, described as a spitting image of Hollywood actress Robin Givens (Boomerang), who was then responsible for transporting the drugs across the country.

Ekwensi was married in name only to an east coast heroin peddler and Nigerian refugee named Ike Ekwensi, but was known for being romanced by a series of hip-hop musicians and professional athletes. She had reportedly been engaged to world welterweight boxing champion Meldrick Taylor and a member of the NBA’s L.A. Lakers.

Ekwensi’s contacts in Detroit were Darryl Funchess and Carlton Love. FBI and DEA agents monitored 60 transactions between Ekwensi and Funchess and Love in Operation FedEx, with Love acting as an intermediary. Ekwensi and Edmonds’ right-hand man in L.A., Reinard Mozell, both cooperated with the government following their arrests in the first phase of the investigation. Love was convicted and got sprung from the joint two years ago.

The charges against Teddy Edmonds had a number of homicides included however he was only convicted of running a continuing criminal enterprise and tax evasion. The 62-year old former west coast big willy is slated for release from federal lockup in Springfield, Illinois next winter.

According to police informants, Funchess, an antique car collector and enthusiast, supplied several pro and college athletes in the state of Michigan with cocaine in the late 1980s and 1990s. Authorities found a letter written to Funchess from then-Michigan State University assistant men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo thanking him for a financial donation to the Spartans’ booster club on Funchess’ property in affluent Franklin Village, an elite, woodsy residential enclave located right outside of Detroit. Izzo became head coach of the MSU program in 1995.

Funchess beat a drug case in the 1980s, getting acquitted at trial after being arrested in a DEA sting at the Ponchatrain Hotel in downtown Detroit on December 16, 1987. Per court records, Funchess, Kevin King, Reggie Williams and Jesse West arrived at the hotel to do a cocaine deal with a pair of DEA informants, even displaying and allowing a testing of the product which was being carried in a black leather suitcase, but were arrested in a raid instead. West was the only one convicted in the case. Williams got found not guilty of the charges at trial along with Funchess. King was killed gangland style less than three weeks following the bust.

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