PLEASANT POINT, Maine — Fifteen years after the investigation into an international smuggling ring was resolved with convictions in federal court, some Passamaquoddy tribal members still believe that Fred “Moose” Moore III was a corrupt cop who deserved to be fired from his job as police chief.
But not all.
Others believe the 48-year-old tribal councilor is a hero who risked his life and reputation to break up an international tobacco smuggling ring involving some Mohawk Warriors.
On Tuesday, Chief Rick Phillips-Doyle and tribal councilors approved a two-page resolution honoring Moore for a case that began in 1992 and ended with five people being sentenced in federal court.
And there to help set the record straight was Don Goulet, the former FBI senior resident agent for Bangor who worked closely with Moore during the undercover sting operation.
Moore and Goulet’s book “Chesuncook,” published last summer, tells the story of the investigation.
In April 1992, some Mohawks from the Akwesasne reservation, which is on the New York border adjacent to Ontario and Quebec, wanted to meet with Moore and talk about moving tobacco across the U.S.-Canadian border without paying duty or taxes. The Pleasant Point Reservation is about seven miles by boat from Saint Andrews, New Brunswick.
Moore met with the men and they thought they had found an ally.
But Moore alerted the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He secretly began to wear a body wire and to record his meetings and telephone conversations with the smugglers.
Throughout the summer, Moore helped transport by boat more than 300 cases of tobacco and almost 400 cartons of cigarettes brought to Pleasant Point by the Akwesasne smugglers. Each time, they paid him more than $1,000, which Moore turned over to the FBI as evidence.
The reservation is small — about 650 people — and in June of that year rumors started circulating that Moore had been arrested and his boat seized in Canada for smuggling tobacco. Moore was taunted daily, and found himself being called “smuggler” and “Marlboro man.” Insulting graffiti were scrawled on his pickup truck and on tribal office buildings. Also that month his house was burned. The arsonist was never caught.
Later that month, an FBI agent briefed the then-Tribal Governor Cliv Dore that Moore was working with federal agents.
Thirteen days later, Moore was suspended as police chief and in August was fired. Tribal officials at the time refused to discuss the firing, saying it was a confidential personnel matter, the Bangor Daily News reported.
Moore continued working with the FBI.
In December 1992 and January 1993, Moore began testifying before a grand jury in Bangor about the operation, and the indictments of the Mohawk conspirators were made public that January.
One year later, the case went to trial at U.S. District Court in Bangor, and after hearing almost a week of testimony in January 1994, the jury deliberated about 10 hours and then returned guilty verdicts.
Moore received a public commendation from federal agents on both sides of the border, but no one on the reservation congratulated him for his role in the investigation. In 1994, he was inducted into the American Police Hall of Fame in Florida.
He never again worked as a tribal police officer.
Councilor Eddie Bassett said Tuesday night that often old attitudes refused to go away.
Basset said that after a conversation with Goulet, he became convinced that sentiment against Moore on the reservation was not true.
“Goulet asked me to sponsor this resolution, and I did,” said Basset.
“The facts of the matter exonerate Fred, and he should be recognized for his heroism and dedication to law enforcement,” Bassett said, reading from the resolution.
The resolution observed that some on the reservation still believe Moore was a corrupt police chief, but its intent was to put those beliefs to rest.
The resolution also noted that the smuggling case also led to a change in federal law. “A new rule of law was established by the United States Supreme Court as a partial result of this pioneering case whereas, it is now illegal to defraud the Canadian government as well as other governments of their rightfully claimed taxes and imposts,” the resolution said.
Moore thanked the tribal leaders, but reminded the councilors that the investigation involved Mohawks who were working for themselves and not their tribe.
“It is vitally important that we understand this is not a reflection on the thousands of good Mohawk people that we have interacted with for generations and decades,” he said. He said the Mohawk leaders at the time were aware of the investigation and supported it.