Two Mainers sentenced for roles in pot distribution ring

Posted May 20, 2010, at 11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:30 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Two men who distributed marijuana for a St. John Valley man were sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to federal prison for their roles in the marijuana distribution ring run by Chad Marquis, 34, of Fort Kent.

William “Billy” L. Bernier Sr., 38, of Millinocket was sentenced to two years and three months, and Steve A. Nadeau, 34, of Fort Kent was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Bernier, who was found guilty in the jury trial in January, also was sentenced to two years of supervised release after he completes his prison term. He faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

In addition to prison time, Nadeau, who pleaded guilty in November and testified against Bernier, was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and was sentenced to three years of supervised release after his prison term. He faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge George Singal stayed the execution of both sentences until June 16.

Singal attributed the difference in the sentences to the fact that Nadeau admitted his role in the operation and cooperated with investigators. Bernier denied his involvement and went to trial, the judge pointed out.

The marijuana Marquis smuggled across the border was distributed primarily in the Millinocket area, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Mr. Bernier was critical to the success of the conspiracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell told Singal. “He introduced Mr. Marquis to Michael Donato, who became a major distributor for him.”

Bernier’s involvement was driven by his nearly lifelong addiction to marijuana, his attorney, Richard Hartley of Bangor, said Thursday. He said that Benier played a lesser role than others who received shorter sentences.

Nadeau, who had been Marquis’ best friend since the two were 5 years old, delivered marijuana to Bernier and Michael Donato, 50, of Medway from late August 2006 until Marquis’ arrest the next May. The two were such good friends that they joined the U.S. Marine Corps together after graduating from high school, Nadeau said at his sentencing.

He told Singal on Thursday that while they were in the service the two men made a pact.

“We said we’d give our lives for each other,” Nadeau said. “Chad brought that up when I said no [to delivering marijuana. He said, ‘Whatever happened to the brotherhood we had?’”

Nadeau said that Marquis told him he’d tried to quit drug smuggling but had been threatened.

“I never did it for the money,” Nadeau said Thursday. “I felt bad for Chad. I felt he was going to get hurt.”

Nadeau said Marquis paid him $100 per pound to deliver the marijuana.

Marquis admitted smuggling hundreds of pounds of marijuana into the United States from Canada from May 2003 until his arrest on May 23, 2007. He waived indictment in March 2009 and pleaded guilty to bringing the pot across the border hidden in his pickup truck. Marquis is serving his two-year and nine-month sentence at a federal prison camp in Devens, Mass.

He also testified against Bernier.

Donato is serving a one-year and 10-month sentence at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institute in New Jersey. His original sentence was reduced by 11 months after he testified against Bernier.

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