Canadian pot smuggler sentenced to 11 years

Posted March 18, 2011, at 7:05 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Canadian man who effectively acted as a transportation director for a massive marijuana smuggling operation across the international border into Maine was sentenced Friday to 11 years and three months in federal prison.

Andre Picard, 50, of Riceville, New Brunswick, coordinated the movement of thousands of pounds of marijuana from a distributor in Montreal and ultimately to customers across the Eastern Seaboard, according to court documents.

In issuing the sentence in federal court in Bangor, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said Picard’s conduct “erodes the fabric” of the St. John Valley, a community of rich traditions and proud people.

“The temptation of cash overwhelmed [your] conscience,” Woodcock said.

At least five others have been charged or sentenced in connection with the same marijuana trafficking operation. Picard’s sentence was the longest because he had authority over other drug runners and because he dealt directly with the main supplier, documents stated.

From a two-year period from 2005 to 2007, the New Brunswick husband and father of two teenage daughters directed shipments of pot across the Canadian border into Maine. In many cases, the drugs were sent in tractor-trailers, concealed in hockey-style duffel bags that were hidden in secret compartments.

Authorities were alerted to the smuggling operation in 2006, when Denise Michaud, one of Picard’s drug runners, was stopped by authorities on Interstate 95 in Pittsfield. With her cooperation, and that of other witnesses, drug agents further investigated Picard’s role. The drugs ended up in Massachusetts, Connecticut and as far south as North Carolina.

He was arrested in April 2010 and has been in federal custody ever since. According to testimony Friday, Picard confessed shortly after his arrest. His attorney, Kevin Jesse McCants, said his client was not addicted to drugs, but to money and greed. Picard has no prior criminal history and by all accounts had a normal background that “does not explain his presence here today,” Woodcock said.

Picard pleaded guilty last August to charges of conspiracy to import and conspiracy to deliver marijuana. He spoke only briefly Friday, in a heavy French-Canadian accent, to address the charges and to apologize for his conduct.

Woodcock said he felt confident the lengthy sentence would act as a deterrent to others like Picard living in the St. John Valley.

“Word of his imprisonment will run through that community just like the St. John River,” the judge said.

As for Picard, he’ll be deported back to Canada immediately upon his release from prison.

“You’ll have to start over,” Woodcock said. “You’ll have to prove to [your community] that you’re deserving of trust. You’re going to have to work at it.”

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