Two plead not guilty in drug ring

Posted July 20, 2009, at 7:52 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:15 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Two northern Maine men pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to charges stemming from an investigation into a marijuana-smuggling operation run by a Fort Kent man.

Steve A. Nadeau, 33, of Fort Kent and Billy L. Bernier, 37, of Millinocket pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana and to distribution of marijuana.

The two men were indicted on July 10 by a federal grand jury in Bangor.

Nadeau and Bernier allegedly were part of the drug-smuggling operation between June 2003 and May 2007 run by Chad Marquis, 33. The smuggling operation was uncovered on May 23, 2007, when a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent found seven vacuum-sealed packages in a camouflage hunting jacket that was in the truck Marquis was driving.

Marquis pleaded guilty in March to drug conspiracy and admitted he had smuggled marijuana across the Canadian border for distribution in the Millinocket area. He was sentenced June 24 in federal court in Portland to 33 months in prison. He is scheduled to begin serving his federal prison sentence on July 29.

Michael Donato, 49, of Medway pleaded guilty June 25 in U.S. District Court in Portland to being part of the conspiracy and to two counts of Social Security fraud. Donato admitted that he bought about 290 pounds of marijuana from Marquis for resale. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 1.

At Marquis’ sentencing, U.S. District Judge George Singal referred to Nadeau as a “childhood friend” whom Marquis recruited to work for him. Court documents filed Monday did not explain Bernier’s possible role in the conspiracy.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk set a tentative trial date of Sept. 8 for Nadeau and Bernier.

Nadeau was released on $5,000 unsecured bail. Bernier was released on personal recognizance bail.

If found guilty, each man faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

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