Medway man pleads guilty

Posted June 25, 2009, at 8:28 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Medway man charged with distributing nearly 300 pounds of marijuana in the Millinocket area for Chad Marquis, 33, of Fort Kent pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to attempted Social Security fraud and drug charges.

Michael Donato, 49, admitted that from 2003 until Marquis’ arrest in May 2007 he sold marijuana from his home. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana, and two counts of failure to disclose an event with the intent to fraudulently secure a Social Security benefit.

Four other charges related to the Social Security fraud are expected to be dismissed when Donato is sentenced.

U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal on Wednesday sentenced Marquis to 33 months in federal prison for smuggling the marijuana across the border and conspiring with Donato to distribute it. In addition, the judge sentenced Marquis to four years of supervised release after his prison term and ordered him to pay a $2,400 fine.

Singal also ordered Marquis to forfeit nearly $75,000 in cash, his 2006 GMC pickup truck that he used to smuggle the drugs across the border, a snowmobile, canoe, rifle and ammunition.

The judge also stayed the execution of Marquis’ sentence until July 29.

Donato, who had been free on $15,000 unsecured bail since his arraignment in November, was ordered Thursday to be held without bail until his sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 1 in Portland.

The prosecution versions of the conspiracy, which both men have admitted entering into, are similar but not identical. The document in Donato’s case includes the estimated weight of the marijuana he bought from Marquis and resold. The prosecution version in Marquis’ case does not include the weight.

The amount of marijuana Donato bought from Marquis and resold is estimated at 290 pounds in the prosecution version filed in Donato’s case.

On Wednesday, the judge named a third man he described as a childhood friend Marquis recruited into the conspiracy. That man has not been charged in federal court.

Donato faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 40 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $2 million on the drug conspiracy charge — the same sentence Marquis faced. Donato also faces up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the fraud charge.

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