County man pleads not guilty to drug charges

Posted March 18, 2011, at 4:43 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — An Aroostook County man entered a not guilty plea Friday in U.S. District Court  to a charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and to two other alleged offenses.

Paul Corbin, 53, of St. David faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.

Accompanied by defense attorneys Darrick X. Banda of Portland and Daniel G. Lilley, Corbin appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk to enter his plea on three counts: possession with intent to distribute 209 pounds of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more (in this case 75 grams in the form of 177 pills) of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of scheduled drugs.

Kravchuk then set a trial date for May 3, but Lilley voiced concern over the relative shortness of time before trial because the defense is awaiting the handover of evidence to review, such as two years’ worth of audiotape conversations, most of which are in French, involving Corbin and known associates.

Lilley and Banda notified Kravchuk that they would be filing requests for a continuance or a new trial date in order to adequately review evidence, as well as for a bail hearing. Corbin was denied bail and has been incarcerated since his arrest Jan. 28.

The case stems from a Jan. 18 Madawaska border inspection that allegedly uncovered 26 pounds of marijuana found inside a large tool box in the back of an unidentified individual’s truck. The individual denied knowledge of the marijuana, which was seized before the person was released.

Thanks to surveillance, a cooperating defendant, and audio recordings over a 10-day period, investigators said they found almost 208 pounds of marijuana in a storage trailer owned by Corbin but located on property owned by another individual. A search of Corbin’s home turned up another 97 pounds of marijuana, 177 methamphetamine pills, and $53,000 in cash, according to court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey represented the prosecution during Friday’s arraignment.

The federal prosecutor said in a previous hearing that for two years, investigators had been working with an unnamed cooperating defendant who laundered drug money for Corbin in a bogus rental scheme. In 2007, Corbin purchased a $166,000 Volvo bucket loader with a $60,000 cash down payment, Casey said.

Corbin allegedly gave the cooperating defendant $6,400 in cash “to rent” the bucket loader and the person would write Corbin a check for the same amount. With the laundered money, Corbin made a $3,200 a month payment toward purchase of the bucket loader and showed $3,200 of “legitimate” income, the federal prosecutor said.

An analysis of Corbin’s finances by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Casey said, showed that between 1999 and 2007, he paid his living expenses, which totaled nearly $304,000, with cash or money orders.

At Corbin’s bail hearing January, Banda argued that his client’s significant ties to northern Maine and his 17-year-old snowplowing business, which cleared parking lots for businesses in the St. John Valley, made him far less a flight risk than Casey described. Banda also said that Corbin had about $100,000 in equity in property he could post for bail and his only arrests had been on misdemeanor charges in the late 1980s.

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