Federal judge denies bail for Van Buren man charged in cocaine conspiracy

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted July 16, 2012, at 12:13 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge on Monday ordered that a Van Buren man charged with being part of a conspiracy to bring more than 20 pounds of cocaine from Texas through Maine to Canada be held without bail.

Robert Rossignol, 59, and two Canadians are 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.

In a written order issued Monday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuck found that Rossignol, a former Van Buren police officer, was not a danger to the community but was a serious flight risk.

“His role in this significant drug smuggling operation appeared to be that of the ‘Border Guy’ who would ferry money into the United States from Canada and drugs out of the United States into Canada,” Kravchuk wrote. “He was able to successfully engage in this activity (apparently for a number of years) because of his stature and ties to his local community.

“The number and nature of the vehicles he owns suggest that [the] defendant has access to considerably more funds than the average pensioner with the income he has disclosed to the court,” she continued. “His apparent financial resources, his wife’s lack of candor regarding his financial circumstances, his living proximity to the Canadian border, and his potential Canadian citizenship suggest that [the] defendant does pose a significant risk of flight.”

The judge said that Rossignol could be released if he met stringent conditions. Those conditions include relocating to a Maine city more than 100 miles from the Canadian border, being subject to location monitoring and house arrest, and submitting a verified financial statement identifying his loans and equity regarding the expensive vehicles he drives and other vehicles he owns. The judge also said he must verify when and where he married his wife and if the marriage makes him eligible to be a Canadian citizen.

Rossignol’s attorney, Marvin Glazier of Bangor, declined to comment on Monday’s hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who is prosecuting the case, said late Monday afternoon that he was pleased with the judge’s decision. He said Rossignol was a police officer for about five years in the early 1990s. Casey also said he did not know what kinds of cars or how many vehicles Rossignol owns.

At Rossignol’s first court appearance on July 2, Kravchuk ordered him to pay $500 a month from his military pension and other income toward his court-appointed attorney.

Information about which branch of the service Rossignol served in or when was not available Monday.

Rossignol was arrested July 1. The two Canadian men were arrested days earlier after one of them was seen 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 on June 27, according to court documents.

Matthieu LeBlanc, 29, of Shediac, New Brunswick, and Chad Hallett, 29, of Dieppe, New Brunswick, also were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 10 kilograms or more of cocaine.

Earlier this month, Kravchuk ordered that Hallett be held without bail. LeBlanc, who was arrested on June 28 in New Jersey, is scheduled to make his first court appearance before Kravchuk on Tuesday afternoon.

The drug scheme came to the attention of ICE agents about 2:20 p.m. June 27 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 saw 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 seen 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 June 28, 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.

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.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/07/16/news/aroostook/federal-judge-denies-bail-for-van-buren-man-charged-in-cocaine-conspiracy/ printed on October 1, 2014