BANGOR, Maine — A Van Buren man pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to two counts of distributing marijuana and one count of importing marijuana in February.
Allen Gagnon, 47, admitted that on Feb. 24, he walked across the frozen St. John River into Canada in white camouflage gear and brought back trash bags full of marijuana.
A sentencing date has not been set. The defendant is being held without bail pending the resolution of his case.
By pleading guilty, Gagnon also admitted giving some of the marijuana that same night to Dean Pelletier, 53, of St. David. Pelletier, who died a few days after he was released on bail for being part of the operation, was the brother of Michael Pelletier, 58, of St. David. He is serving a life sentence in federal prison for running a marijuana distribution ring.
Dean Pelletier told police when he was arrested that over the course of about two years he bought marijuana from Gagnon on at least 18 occasions. He had given his supplier $20,000 in January and owed him another $20,000, according to court documents.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday after the hearing that there was no evidence linking Gagnon’s operation to Michael Pelletier’s.
The Van Buren man first came to the attention of federal officials five years ago when he laid claim to a bag of cash found by railroad workers, according to a report previously published in the Bangor Daily News. He said that a black duffel bag containing more than $165,000 found by two railroad workers beside tracks near his home was his life savings. The workers turned the money over to U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Gagnon said he lost the duffel bag stuffed with $100, $50, $20 and $10 bills near the spot where the railroad workers said they found it. He said he lost the bag, which was strapped to his back, while he was driving his snowmobile on the tracks from Van Buren to Madawaska. He and the two railroad workers laid claim to the property.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, who accepted Gagnon’s guilty pleas Friday, ruled in February 2007 that the money belonged to the government because it was believed to be associated with drug smuggling.
Gagnon was arrested on the marijuana charges on Feb. 25 after agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported seeing him give two large garbage bags of marijuana to Dean Pelletier. The St. David man was charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.
Pelletier died a few days after being released on bail. Information about how he died has not been released. The charges against him have been dismissed.
Dean Pelletier was the younger brother of Michael Pelletier, 58, also of St. David. The elder Pelletier is serving a life sentence for running a marijuana smuggling ring from the St. John Valley to southern Maine. He was convicted in July 2007 on more than a dozen charges, including drug smuggling, money laundering and So-cial Security fraud.
Michael Pelletier, who uses a wheelchair as a result of a farm accident when he was 11, is incarcerated at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex in Indiana. The facility is described on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website as a maximum-security facility with a special section for men serving life sentences.
Gagnon faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.