PORTLAND, Maine — An Aroostook County man described by a federal prosecutor as “one of the most prolific drug smugglers in Maine” for nearly 40 years waived indictment and pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to drug and money laundering charges.
Paul Corbin, 54, of St. David had pleaded not guilty in March to three counts: possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of scheduled drugs.
On Tuesday, Corbin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to posses with the intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
By pleading guilty, Corbin admitted that between 2005 and 2010, he conspired with others to distribute more than 200 pounds of marijuana and to launder more than $165,000 of the proceeds of the drug trafficking conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case.
Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who is prosecuting the case, has said that the Corbin’s marijuana smuggling operation lasted much, much longer, the statute of limitations in federal cases is five years.
A sentencing date has not been set. It is expected to be set after a pre-sentence report is completed by U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation in six to eight weeks.
Corbin faces up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Corbin waived his right to appeal his sentence to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston as long as it is no longer than five years and 10 months.
As part of the plea agreement, Corbin also agreed to forfeit to the government more $105,000 in cash, a property on the Sawmill Road in Madawaska, a bucket loader, snow buck, bulldozer, dump truck, pickup truck and 16 guns.
Corbin has no prior felony drug convictions, according to a previously published report. His last convictions were misdemeanors in the 1980s, according to information revealed at his bail hearing last year, and are too old to be held against him at his sentencing.
He has been held without bail since his arrest Jan. 29, 2011, in St. David. The time he has been incarcerated awaiting sentencing is expected to be credited to his sentence.
The original and subsequent drug charges stemmed from a Jan. 18, 2011, Madawaska border inspection that uncovered 26 pounds of marijuana inside a large toolbox in the back of an unidentified individual’s truck, according to a previous report. 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.
Investigators, however, had been working with an unnamed cooperating defendant who laundered drug money for Corbin in a bogus rental scheme for two years prior to Corbin’s arrest, according to court documents. The investigation revealed that in 2007, Corbin purchased a $166,000 Volvo bucket loader with a $60,000 cash down payment.
Corbin 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, according to court documents.
An analysis of Corbin’s finances by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed that between 1999 and 2007, he paid his living expenses, which totaled nearly $304,000, with cash or money orders, Casey said in March.
The investigation was conducted jointly by the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Division of the Department of Homeland Security and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.