BANGOR, Maine — A Van Buren man was arrested Sunday and charged with being part of a conspiracy to smuggle cocaine obtained in Texas into Canada after federal authorities claimed he was seen giving a Canadian man $300,000 in cash.
Robert Rossignol, 59, made his first appearance Monday in U.S. District Court.
Two Canadian men were arrested Friday after one of them was observed by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement receiving nearly $300,000 in cash hidden in a box from Rossignol in a Houlton parking lot Wednesday, according to court documents.
Rossignol, Matthieu LeBlanc, 29, of Shediac, New Brunswick, and Chad Hallett, 29, of Dieppe, New Brunswick, were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 10 kilograms or more of cocaine.
Ten kilograms of cocaine is equal to 22 pounds of the drug.
Hallett agreed Monday to be held without bail pending the outcome of his case. LeBlanc’s first appearance had not been scheduled as of late Monday afternoon.
A bail hearing for Rossignol was set for Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk.
During Monday’s hearing, Kravchuk told Rossignol that he would have to pay $500 a month from his military pension and other income toward a court-appointed attorney.
Information about which branch of the service Rossignol served in or when was not available Monday.
The drug scheme came to the attention of ICE agents about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday when Hallett and an unidentified woman crossed the border at Houlton, according to an affidavit signed by agent Shawn Serra. The couple allegedly told a Customs and Border Patrol officer they were headed to Atlantic City, N.J., for pleasure.
ICE agent Kinsman Corthell followed Hallett’s car to a commercial parking lot where he observed a man, who turned out to be Rossignol, remove a rectangular box from the back seat of his vehicle and hand it to Hallett, according to the affidavit. Hallett was observed putting the box in his trunk.
After Rossignol left the parking lot, Hallett and the woman headed south on Interstate 95, according to the affidavit. A short time later, Hallett was stopped by the Maine State Police for speeding. After Hallett showed signs of nervousness, a police dog named Dorsta was brought to the scene and hit on the trunk of the car, where the box with $298,585 was recovered, the affidavit said.
In a subsequent interview with ICE agents, Hallett said he intended to meet LeBlanc in Atlantic City, N.J., on Thursday, according to the affidavit.
The two planned to spend time in the casinos changing the smaller denomination bills into larger ones before heading to Houston to meet a cocaine dealer identified as “Vic.”
Hallett told investigators he and LeBlanc planned to purchase cocaine for $29,000 per kilogram, then return to Maine and turn it over to the man Hallett called “The Border Guy.” That man was identified in the affidavit as Rossignol. Hallett also said he had made the trip with LeBlanc five or six previous times and expected to be paid $11,000 by LeBlanc for the coming trip.
The Canadian men were arrested Friday after Hallett met up with LeBlanc in the Atlantic City airport, according to the affidavit.
The circumstances surrounding Rossignol’s arrest Sunday were not available Monday.
If convicted, each man faces a minimum of 10 years in prison because of the amount of cocaine alleged to have been involved in the conspiracy and a maximum of life, as well as a fine of up to $1 million.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an error. Ten kilograms of cocaine is equal to 22 pounds of the drug, not 2.2 pounds.