BANGOR, Maine — The trial of a Texas man charged in connection with an alleged cocaine-running scheme that stretched from the Lone Star State to Canada through Maine is set to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Apolinar “Polo” Ortiz Islas , 42, of Houston was indicted in August 2012 by a federal grand jury along with Victor “Vic” Charles, 32, of Bacliff, Texas, and Robert “The Border Guy” Rossignol, 60, of Van Buren on one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute five kilograms or more cocaine between Jan. 1, 2011, and June 28, 2012.
Five kilograms of cocaine is equivalent to about 11 pounds of the drug.
Ortiz Islas has denied being part of the conspiracy. Rossignol and Charles pleaded guilty to the drug charges earlier this year. Rossignol also pleaded guilty to a second count of failure to report the importation to $10,000 or more and aiding and abetting the same.
Two Canadian men — Matthieu LeBlanc, 29, of Shediac, New Brunswick, and Chad Hallett, 29, of Dieppe, New Brunswick — pleaded guilty last year to drug conspiracy charges and are being held without bail while awaiting sentencing.
All four men and Kyle McDonnell of Texas, who has been granted immunity, according to court documents, are expected to testify against Ortiz Islas.
Rossignol and the Texans were charged after one of the Canadians was seen by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement receiving nearly $300,000 in cash in a box from Rossignol in a Houlton parking lot on June 27, 2012, according to court documents.
A short time later, Hallett was stopped for speeding by Maine State Police, and a K-9 unit discovered $298,585 inside a box in the trunk, according to court documents.
LeBlanc and Hallett admitted receiving a large sum of money from Rossignol in Maine, then traveling to Texas. Once there, Hallett and LeBlanc met with Charles and exchanged the money for cocaine.
The Canadians are expected to testify that they met Ortiz Islas through McDonnell and Charles, described as a “middlemen” in the trial brief filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who is prosecuting the case. Undercover drug agents are expected tell jurors how they worked with Hallett and LeBlanc to set up a buy in Houston through Ortiz Islas.
In addition to maintaining that he never entered the conspiracy with Rossignol and Charles, Ortiz Isla’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Virginia Villa, will challenge the identification of her client by LeBlanc, Charles and McDonnell, according to the trial motion she filed.
The trial is expected to last four days. Three interpreters have been hired to translate the court proceedings from English into Spanish for the defendant.
All five men charged in connection with the operation face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a fine of up to $10 million on the drug charges.