BANGOR, Maine — A Van Buren man charged with being part of a drug-running scheme to bring more than 20 pounds of cocaine to Canada through Maine pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court.
Robert Rossignol, 59, was released on personal recognizance bail with strict conditions, which include his wearing an ankle bracelet and living under house arrest in Biddeford, far from his home in the St. John Valley.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk on July 16 ordered that Rossignol be held without bail pending the outcome of his case unless the bail conditions could be met.
Members of Rossignol’s family have provided a vacant apartment where he and his wife will be living, defense attorney Marvin Glazier of Bangor told the judge Friday.
Kravchuk told Rossignol that he may leave the apartment only for medical appoints, to make court appearances or to meet with his attorney unless he has prior permission from U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services, which will monitor him closely. Rossignol will have to pay the nearly $250 per month cost of the monitoring, Kravchuk told him.
The judge warned the defendant not attempt to flee to Canada, where he apparently has family.
“I imagine that, given the situation, Mr. Rossignol, the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] are not all that pleased with you,” she said Friday. “And you know what they say about the Mounties — they always get their man.”
Rossignol was indicted July 19 by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 10 kilograms or more of cocaine. Ten kilograms of cocaine is equal to 22 pounds of the drug.
He entered a not guilty plea Friday.
The indictment asks that be Rossignol be ordered to forfeit the nearly $300,000 seized last month and his silver 2006 Lincoln Mark LT.
Two Canadian men — Matthieu LeBlanc, 29, of Shediac, New Brunswick, and Chad Hallett, 29, of Dieppe, New Brunswick, who have been charged with being part of the drug conspiracy along with Rossignol, have not yet been indicted. They are facing the same charge.
The Canadians agreed to be held without bail pending the outcome of their cases.
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.
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 and a maximum of life because of the amount of cocaine alleged to have been involved in the conspiracy, as well as a fine of up to $1 million.