Boat, Race Car Champs Connected in Marijuana Ring Indictment
MIAMI (AP) _ A powerboat champion and a fugitive race car driver ran a nationwide marijuana ring for seven years and distributed at least 550,000 pounds of the drug, according to a federal indictment.
Benjamin Kramer, 32, the defending U.S. open class offshore powerboat champion, was in custody today at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center. He was arrested late Thursday by FBI agents on an indictment handed up Aug. 26 in the Southern District of Illinois.
U.S. Drug Enforcment Administration agents, accompanied by Florida Marine Patrol officers, on Friday seized racing boats and other property at Kramer’s Apache Offshore Engineering boat firm in North Miami Beach.
Randy Thomas Lanier, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and an unindicted co-conspirator in the Kramer case, disappeared in May after he was indicted for marijuana smuggling in Florida and Illinois.
Kramer faces one count of running a continuing criminal enterprise and one of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The first count has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a minimum of 10 years in federal prison.
Kramer appeared Friday before U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff here and was ordered held without bond pending a full hearing Monday. A hearing to extradite him to Illinois was set for next month.
According to the Illinois indictment, Kramer, Lanier and others distributed more than 550,000 pounds of marijuana between March 1980 and June 1987.
Kramer was allegedly the ″organizer, supervisor and manager″ of the ring, which operated in Illinois, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, California, West Virginia, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and elsewhere.
Kramer has won races including the Apache Offshore Challenge in Miami and the Northpoint 200 in Michigan, said John Crouse, a publicist for powerboat races.