Man gets 22 months for selling marijuana

Posted Feb. 03, 2010, at 7:55 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Medway man who admitted distributing nearly 300 pounds of marijuana for a St. John Valley man was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to 22 months in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge George Singal also sentenced Michael Donato, 50, to three years of supervised release after he completes his prison term. The judge also ordered Donato to pay $43,675 in restitution for Social Security payments.

Donato admitted that he distributed the marijuana in northern Penobscot County for Chad Marquis, 33, of Fort Kent. Marquis in July began serving a 33-month federal prison sentence in Devens, Mass., for leading the conspiracy and smuggling hundreds of pounds of marijuana into Maine from Canada.

The Medway man pleaded guilty in June 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 were dismissed Thursday at the sentenc-ing.

Donato faced a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 40 years. His sentence was reduced to 22 months after he and Marquis testified last month against William “Billy” L. Bernier at his trial in federal court in Bangor. Donato told the jury that Bernier introduced him to Marquis.

Bernier was found guilty of conspiracy but not of being a major player in the operation. His sentencing has been set for April 9 in Bangor.

Donato had been held without bail while awaiting sentencing since June. That time will count toward his sentence.

Marquis waived indictment and pleaded guilty on March 19 to conspiracy to import marijuana and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and the distribution of marijuana. He said he brought marijuana across the border beginning in 2000 or 2001 — first for his own use and later to sell to others.

His 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 he was driving, according to court documents.

Marquis cooperated with authorities and led them to a storage unit in Wallagrass where he said he stored marijuana.

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