PORTLAND — A federal grand jury has indicted eight
men from Maine and four men from Connecticut on charges of trafficking at least
1,000 kilograms of marijuana throughout southern Maine over the past four
years.

The defendants each face a single count of
conspiracy, which is punishable by a minimum prison term of 10 years. Six of
them face additional charges that include possession with intent to distribute,
and using the telephone to facilitate the sale of drugs.

According to court documents that were unsealed on
Wednesday, FBI agents led the investigation and gathered evidence through
surveillance, the cooperation of informants and the recording of dozens of
telephone conversations, following the approval of wiretaps by a federal judge
earlier this year.

The court documents provided few details about how
the alleged conspiracy operated, but officials said the case – in terms of the
number of defendants and the amount of marijuana involved – is among the larger
drug busts to come through federal court in Maine in recent years.

“We’ve shut down several supply pipelines coming
in. I would say it’s pretty significant,” said Todd DiFede, the FBI’s
supervisory agent in Maine.

He said the arrests stem a major source of
marijuana that had been coming into southern Maine. Most of the drug was
distributed in York and Cumberland counties, DiFede said.

The defendants were indicted on June 24, but the
case documents remained under seal until Wednesday to give U.S. marshals time to
make arrests. Four of the men were arrested on July 8, six were arrested on July
9, and one man was arrested Sunday at JFK Airport in New York.

Only one of the defendants, 36-year-old Adolphus
Edwards of Waterbury, Conn., remained at large as of Wednesday evening.

Those charged are Edwards; Hal McKoy, 45, of
Waterbury, Conn.; Sean McKoy, 36, also of Waterbury; Russell Fitzgerald, 42, of
Manchester, Conn.; Cory MacDonald, 29, of Arundel; Patrick Mullen, 40, of South
Portland; Craig Kimball, 48, of St. Albans; Robert Dall, 55, of Westbrook;
Thomas Dyer, 49, of Brunswick; Dennis Taylor, 42, of Topsham; Ronald Waterman,
54, of Island Falls; and Arthur Moreau, 50, of Ripley.

Hal McKoy and Edwards have been living in the
United States but are citizens of Jamaica.

Jamie Guerrette, special assistant U.S. Attorney,
is handling the case. He declined to comment on details of the case, including
who the alleged ringleaders of the conspiracy were.

Of the 11 defendants who have been arrested, eight
have pleaded not guilty and have been released, either on a posted bond or on
personal recognizance.

Hal McKoy pleaded not guilty, but waived his right
to a detention hearing and he remains in the custody of immigration officials.
Sean McKoy was arrested in New York and is expected to be brought back to Maine
for an initial appearance.

Dennis Taylor pleaded not guilty, but prosecutors
asked Magistrate Judge John Rich to order that he be held until his case is
resolved. According to court documents, Taylor has three prior felony drug
convictions in state court, and one in federal court in 2001. Rich had not
decided by Wednesday whether Taylor will be held or will be eligible for
bail.

If he is convicted of the charges in this case,
Taylor potentially faces a mandatory life sentence because of his criminal
history.

Sarah Churchill, a Portland lawyer who was
appointed to represent Taylor, said the next step is for the government to
provide discovery materials to the defense lawyers.

“I need to know what the government knows,”
Churchill said. “We expect to receive that material sometime this week or early
next week.”

Churchill said one advantage in cases with so many
defendants is the fact that multiple defense attorneys are working on it and
sharing ideas and strategies.

DiFede of the FBI said his agency took the lead in
the administrative aspects of the investigation, but said it was a cooperative
effort by several agencies. Drug investigations are usually are conducted by the
Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies that specifically target
drugs, but DiFede said the FBI also investigates such cases in certain
circumstances.

“The FBI does investigate and participate in
criminal enterprise and gang investigations, and typically a lot of them do
involve drugs,” DiFede said, noting that this was such a case. However, he would
not specify what triggered the FBI’s interest.

Although much of law enforcement’s attention is
focused on more powerful drugs like cocaine, heroin and illegally obtained
prescription painkillers, cracking down on marijuana trafficking is important,
said Roy McKinney, director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Administration.

“It’s a criminal enterprise and there is a lot of
violence associated with marijuana because of the immense amounts of money that
can be made by criminal organizations,” McKinney said.

While some of the drugs coming into Maine come
from Canada, McKinney said drugs typically flow from southern New England and
New York northward, following the nation’s highway system up from southern
states.

“As a result you have these criminal groups that
come up, establish contact with local individuals in order to make contact with
the addict and user crowds and then begin selling their drugs,” he said.

Depending on the origin and quality, the street
value of marijuana in Maine generally ranges between $1,000 and $5,000 per
pound, said Steven Webster, head of detectives for South Portland, who has
served with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. A kilogram is roughly two pounds,
so the street value of 1,000 kilograms would likely range between $2.2 million
and $11 million.


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