AUBURN — What a difference a couple of decades make.

Twenty years ago, Derek Laliberte was convicted by the federal government of money laundering. Prison loomed. The future looked bleak.

On Thursday, the 48-year-old received a pardon, one of several pardons and commutations granted by President Barack Obama.

The pardon doesn’t mean a lot in a practical sense. Laliberte has been free for many years already after serving roughly 18 months in federal prison. He co-owns Crystal Spring Water in Auburn, has a wife and three children.

But symbolically, the move is a nod from the president, expressing that Laliberte and the others have fulfilled their debt to society.

Obama granted clemency to 21 people in all — eight commutations and 13 pardons — and Laliberte’s name was on the list, bringing an official end to a period that began in the early 1990s.

Laliberte was 27 when he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors said he had served as a banker in a drug ring that trafficked cocaine between Maine and New York.

“I made a mistake,” Laliberte told the Portland Press Herald on Thursday, “but I’ve always been repentant.”

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