COBURN GORE TOWNSHIP — A justice lowered bail on Monday for a Canadian couple accused of crossing the border on Route 27 into Maine with 4.63 pounds of suspected powdered cocaine in a suitcase on Friday.

Jermaine Phillips Franklin County Detention Center photo

Jermaine T. Phillips, 40, of Brampton and Shanna C. Brown of Cornwall, both of Ontario, Canada, were each arrested on a charge of aggravated trafficking of scheduled drugs, according to a Maine Drug Enforcement Agency sworn affidavit filed in a Farmington court.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent Kenneth Bradley contacted a MDEA special agent and informed him that Phillips and Brown crossed into the U.S. with 4.63 pounds, or 2,100 grams, of suspected cocaine hydrochloride powder. The drug agent went to the Coburn Gore Port of Entry and met with Bradley who advised him that the couple told him they “accidentally” came to the border crossing and entered the U.S.

The GPS the couple were using took them this way and they didn’t see that they were entering the United States, according to the drug agent’s affidavit.

Brown and Phillips are not U.S. citizens.

During an interview with border patrol and Bradley, a police K-9 alerted to the trunk of the couple’s vehicle. Inside the trunk was luggage including a suitcase. Inside the suitcase was allegedly the 4.63 pounds of suspected cocaine powder.

Shanna Brown Franklin County Detention Center photo

Border patrol agents tested both bricks of the suspected cocaine and received a presumptive positive result for the drug on both bricks, according to the affidavit.

The drug agent arrested Phillips and Brown. Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies drove the couple to the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington. Deputies had been called to assist border patrol at about 7:22 p.m. on Friday.

Aggravated trafficking is 112 grams or more of cocaine HCL, according to the affidavit. The amount of cocaine found equaled 2,100 grams with a street value for a gram of cocaine powder being $100 to $200 a gram, $210,000 to $420,000, respectively.

The couple were held over the weekend in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Brown and Phillips made an initial appearance from the jail before Justice Thomas McKeon on Zoom on Monday afternoon.

Assistant Attorney General David Fisher told the court that Phillips had a record of convictions for illegal drugs and guns going back to back to 2000.

“They say they accidentally crossed the border,” Fisher said, but he said it was hard to believe. He will be adding a second charge of aggravated illegal importation of a scheduled drug.

He requested bail be kept at $500,000 cash because of the significant amount of cocaine. He cited public safety and a risk of fleeing the country and not returning to Maine for scheduled court appearances among other issues.

Mr. Phillips believes his family could come up with $10,000 for bail, said attorney Christopher Berryment, who represented the two defendants for the day. He would waive extradition to come back to Maine, Berryment said.

If he failed, he would be committing another crime, he said.

Justice McKeon said he is always a little troubled when someone is seeking a court appointed attorney and has $200,000 worth of contraband.

The couple has no connection to Maine.

“At this point, we need to have a significant amount of cash bail to ensure he returns,” McKeon said, adding $10,000 is not significant enough.

He appointed attorney Jason Ranger to represent Phillips.

McKeon set bail at $350,000.

McKeon told Phillips after he meets with Ranger that they could set a hearing to review bail. A dispositional conference was set for Jan. 13, 2022. Conditions included no use or possession of illegal drugs, search upon articulable suspicion and no contact with Brown. Another condition was that he not leave the state of Maine. All information will be sent to Ranger.

Brown was crying when it was her turn to be seen by the justice. McKeon appointed A. Tucker Derstine to represent her.

“I will be here. I will never run,” Brown said through her tears. She said she has never not appeared in court.

Fisher read a significantly lesser record for Brown.

It is hard to believe they were not working in concert, he said, repeating the reasons why a high bail should be set.

Brown has two young children, one of whom has autism, Berryment said. Her family could come up with some money. She has never spent more than a couple of days in jail, he said. She has a business and another job. She also has health issues of anxiety and asthma, he said. He asked for a lower bail given her lack of record compared to Phillips, he said.

McKeon said he could not ignore the “sheer amount of drugs brought into the state of Maine.”

Given the difference in the records, it still needs to be very significant, he said.

McKeon set Brown’s bail at $100,000. Drug trafficking is taken very seriously in Maine, he said.

Brown’s next court date is set for Jan. 13, 2022. He told her that her attorney could have bail reviewed.

A conviction on a charge of aggravated trafficking carries a maximum 30 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.


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