Indictment Charges 29 in Big Marijuana Ring; Alleged Leader Arrested
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ A federal indictment charges 29 people with smuggling more than a ton of marijuana from Jamaica to Florida, and a Canadian man who allegedly led the ring has been arrested, authorities announced Wednesday.
Pierre Gilles Doyer of North Hatley, Quebec, who authorities say started the smuggling operation in 1985, was arrested in North Hatley on Wednesday, the U.S. attorney’s office in Tampa said.
The indictment alleges that Doyer and others had organized vessels, crews and ground transport since 1985 to smuggle marijuana from Jamaica to Florida for distribution to other states.
Six Canadians, 14 Americans and nine other people whose nationalities are not known were named in the indictment. Of the Americans, five were from Florida, four from Illinois, two from Massachusetts, two from Pennsylvania and one from Colorado, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
″This investigation has taken a major step toward ridding southwest Florida of a significant marijuana smuggling organization with ties to other states and Canada,″ U.S. Attorney Robert Genzman said at a news conference in Sarasota.
Genzman said the investigation began in February 1988 after the Sarasota Police Department received a tip about suspicious boat activity around Lido Key in Sarasota.
The indictment charges all defendants with conspiracy to import more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute the drug.
The defendants face up to life in prison without parole and fines of up to $4 million if convicted.
Doyer also is accused of operating a continuing criminal enterprise. He was scheduled to appear Thursday in Federal Court in Montreal to face extradition to the United States.
Canadian authorities seized an estimated $6 million in assets allegedly linked to the smuggling operation. The assets include four condominiums, five luxury cars and a small ski area in North Hatley, about 90 miles east of Montreal.
Police in Toronto and Montreal searched dozens of financial institutions to trace money believed laundered by the ring, said Robert Lamy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.