'Buckwild' host sent to prison for drug conspiracy

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A former co-host of the defunct Playboy TV show "Buckwild" has been sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy that used models to smuggle Ecstasy tablets.

Kenneth Cecil Francis III, 38, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to import and distribute Ecstasy. Francis and Snoop Dogg were co-hosts of "Buckwild," which combined hip-hop and nudity.

Prosecutors said Francis took part in a drug smuggling ring that involved recruiting couriers to travel to Belgium and the Netherlands to pick up packages containing Ecstasy tablets.

The couriers told authorities they were told they were smuggling diamonds. The packages actually contained tens of thousands of pills that were brought into Los Angeles and New York in 2000 and 2001, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Cheryl Murphy.

Before he was sentenced Monday, Francis told U.S. District Judge Manuel Real that he "got involved in this whole drug-smuggling conspiracy by wanting to start my own business, which was a modeling business."

He said he initially thought the models were traveling to Europe for photo shoots, but he later learned they were smuggling drugs.

Prosecutors said the alleged ringleader, Ronald Joseph Samuel, has pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.

Seven other co-defendants have been sentenced to terms ranging from three to nine years in prison.
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