RUTLAND, Vermont — A Montreal man was sentenced Wednesday to just over five years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to smuggle 3,300 pounds of cocaine from Peru to Vermont and then to Canada.
None of the cocaine reached its intended destination in Canada.
Prosecutors said Georges Yaghmour was involved in the same plot that led to the kidnapping of an older couple from New York in September 2020 — apparently an associate’s grandparents — who were taken across the border to Canada and later rescued by Quebec police.
In court Wednesday, Yaghmour’s attorney, Michael Cohen of Miami, argued Yaghmour had never been in trouble before, but he owed more than $600,00 in gambling and other debts and his family restaurant was firebombed.
Cohen asked that Yaghmour be sentenced to time served since his November 2020 arrest in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he had traveled to discuss why none of the cocaine had reached its destination.
“He was under tremendous pressure to make money,” Cohen told U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford.
But prosecutors, who asked that Yaghmour be sentenced to at least the 63 months, argued he played a key role in what is probably the largest cocaine trafficking case in Vermont history.
“By any measure, this is an extraordinarily serious crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher said in court.
In court, Yaghmour’s sister and his girlfriend told the judge Yaghmour had a big heart and would be welcomed back to his family after his release from prison.
Crawford imposed the minimum 63-month sentence requested by prosecutors.
“You became involved in a very serious crime with organized-crime type figures,” Crawford told Yaghmour before imposing the sentence.
Crawford also agreed to recommend to prison officials that Yaghmour be held in a prison near the Canadian border and that he be considered for a program that would allow him to serve his sentence in Canada.
Yaghmour, 40, pleaded guilty in November to a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” Yagmour said in court Wednesday. “My actions are why everyone is here.”
Court documents say Yaghmour was involved in a meeting in the lobby of a Burlington hotel on Dec. 5, 2019 that was attended by an undercover agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a confidential informant. The meeting was to discuss a shipment of 500 kilos of cocaine from Peru to Vermont and then to Canada. Court documents say that at the time, Yaghmour said they wanted a total of 1,500 kilos to be delivered over time.
Court records say Yaghmour and his partners were prepared to pay $1 million in exchange for the delivery of the 500 kilos. Eventually, other members of the conspiracy delivered more than $570,000 in partial payment and the DEA seized more than 300 kilograms of cocaine after it was delivered in South America for transport to Vermont.
In September 2020 the DEA disrupted two deliveries that were part of the plan; the South Burlington case that led to the alleged kidnapping and a second seizure in Framingham, Massachusetts.
The South Burlington seizure was what led to the kidnapping of the New York couple.
“We are not suggesting he was involved, but his participation [in the conspiracy] contributed to the environment that allowed it to happen,” Drescher told the judge.
Story by Wilson Ring.