BANGOR, Maine — The cocaine ring that federal prosecutors claim operated for nearly 4½ years and ranged from northern Penobscot County to Costa Rica included more people than the 14 — two of whom are incarcerated on related drug charges — indicted in the case.
At least six others, four of whom have been charged separately, were involved in the operation, according to information recently filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Information about what turned out to be a major drug-distribution ring first became public in November 2006 when Michael Blish, 37, of Lee and a convicted sex offender in Maine waived indictment and pleaded guilty to being part of a drug conspiracy. It was not until May 2008, when an indictment handed up by a federal grand jury the previous November was unsealed, that the scope of the operation was revealed.
Michael Mayer, 54, of Jupiter, Fla., and Costa Rica allegedly supplied the others in the distribution ring with a kilo-gram of cocaine once a month between January 2002 and June 1, 2005, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who is prosecuting the case. Individuals would drive to Florida and bring the drug back to Maine where it was divided into smaller quantities that were sold to distributors for subsequent resale to users.
After an alleged dispute over money, members of the drug ring obtained cocaine through November 2005 from Laurent “Larry” Provost, 60, of Woonsocket, R.I., who then was living in Mansfield, Mass. That relationship ended after less than six months in a disagreement over money and the quality of the drugs, Casey said earlier this year.
The ring, with the help of Blish, then turned to two people from the Dominican Republic from Lawrence, Mass., whom prosecutors have not named. They were arrested in New Hampshire on unrelated drug charges in January 2006 and are serving federal prison terms, Casey said. Where the members of the group obtained drugs after that has not been made public.
Robert Lancaster, 33, of Kingman last month was sentenced to 25 months in federal prison and four years of super-vised release for his part in the conspiracy in one of the cases filed separately. He admitted, according to court documents, that he went to Florida twice with Mark “Goober” Russell, 41, of Lincoln to bring cocaine back to Maine.
In addition to Blish, Lancaster and the Dominicans, two other people — Anthony “Tony” Martin and James White — have been named in court documents as having been involved in the distribution ring.
A search of the court’s elec-tronic case filing system showed that no one named “An-thony Martin” or “Tony Mar-tin” is facing federal charges in Maine. A 44-year-old Lincoln man named James White was sentenced in June 2007 to more than seven years in federal prison for manufacturing marijuana in the basement of his Half Township Road home. It could not be confirmed Friday whether the marijuana grower and the James White involved in the cocaine distribution ring were the same person.
At least three of the dozen defendants originally indicted last year have agreed to plead guilty.
Provost pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy with in-tent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, and Social Security fraud. In a plea agreement with prosecutors, he agreed not to appeal a sentence of more than 37 months in federal prison.
Preston Chubbuck, 43, of Springfield also has pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy. He agreed not to appeal a sentence of more than five years, accord-ing to court documents.
Prosecutors described Chub-buck in May as the confidential informant that helped bring down the drug distribution ring. His role as an informant became public after he failed to appear at court proceeding and reneged on a previous agreement to plead guilty last year. He reportedly continued to use drugs and participate in drug deals without informing his U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency contacts.
Donald “Donny” Russell, 50, of Lincoln, brother of co-defendant Mark Russell, is scheduled to plead guilty to drug conspiracy and Social Security fraud on Sept. 30 in federal court in Bangor. Donald Russell reportedly received disability benefits because he is legally blind, but the payments allegedly received made him ineligible for Social Security benefits.
No court documents have been filed stating that he has a plea agreement with prosecu-tors.
Mark Russell and Jeffrey Whitehead, 54, of Enfield were indicted by a federal grand jury and added to the case in July. Both men are incarcerated on drug charges. They pleaded not guilty last month to the charges in Maine.
Mark Russell is serving a nearly five-year sentence in North Carolina on drug trafficking and possession charges. He was arrested in February 2004 with more than 3½ ounces of cocaine on his way back from Florida headed for Maine.
A third Russell brother, Richard “Rat” Russell, 48, of Lincoln, also is facing drug conspiracy charges in the federal case in Maine.
Whitehead is scheduled to be released in December after serving nearly two years in federal prison. He was indicted on drug charges in August 2006 after selling cocaine and heroin the previous summer to under-cover officers. He was sentenced in January 2007 to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to the charges. He is ex-pected to be credited with time for good behavior and for the 3½ months he was held while awaiting sentencing.
Prosecutors have declined to estimate the street value of the drugs members of the ring distributed, but the indictment indicates that a Florida supplier was paid more than $35,000 over a three-month period in 2005. Several of the defendants are expected to forfeit property purchased with the illegal proceeds from the drug money.
According to court documents, Blish told investigators he paid $1,550 an ounce for cocaine purchased in Florida and $1,000 an ounce for cocaine purchased in Lawrence, Mass. Once the drugs were repacked in smaller quantities, Blish sold an “eight ball” — one-eighth ounce of the drug — for $250.
Mayer, the alleged Florida-based kingpin in the operation during its early years is in custody in Central America awaiting extradition to Maine.
A man who identified himself as “Mike Mayer,” called the Bangor Daily News last month. He said that he was incarcerated in Costa Rica waiting to be turned over to American authorities. The man also said he was not guilty and could not have been involved in the conspiracy in June 2005 because he was then in a Florida hospital recovering from a stroke and heart attack.
Casey, the federal prosecutor, said he could not confirm from the details the caller gave whether the man was Mayer.
Others facing charges in the case are:
Jeffrey Polk, 36, of Alaska.
Daniel “Danny” Littlefield, 49, of Lee.
Troy Littlefield, 42, of Oak-field.
Robert Donath, 28, of Lincoln.
Peter Glidden, 31, of Smith-field.
Nancy Squeglia, 51, of East Millinocket.
Brent “Cowboy” Noyes, 57, of Lincoln.
The Littlefields are related but are not siblings, according to prosecutors.