PORTLAND, Maine — A Fort Kent man pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to smuggling marijuana across the border for six or seven years.
Chad Marquis, 31, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute.
Marquis’ smuggling activities were discovered in May 2007 when he returned from Canada at Fort Kent after having lunch at the Maple Leaf Restaurant in Clair, New Brunswick, according to court documents. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officers found seven vacuum-sealed packages containing marijuana in a camouflage hunting jacket on the floor behind the seat of the truck he was driving.
In pleading guilty, Marquis admitted that he began smuggling marijuana across the border in 2000 or 2001. According to court documents, he told investigators he started smuggling an ounce at a time. When Marquis began selling the drug to his friends, he went from needing an ounce to half a pound in a period of six to eight months. By 2005 he was buying a pound of marijuana at a time.
Marquis told investigators that by early 2007, he was smuggling 35 pounds of marijuana per trip across the border. He made the trip once every two or three weeks, according to court documents, and it took him about three weeks to sell the entire 35 pounds to his customers.
Investigators found 15 pounds of marijuana in Marquis’ storage unit in Wallagrass along with nearly $75,000 in cash. Under the plea agreement, Marquis will forfeit the cash along with his 2006 GMC Sierra pickup that he used to smuggle the drug across the border, his snowmobile, canoe and a rifle and ammunition.
Federal law requires that Marquis be held without bail pending sentencing. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison. He also could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2 million.
A sentencing date has not been set.