BANGOR, Maine — A New Brunswick man was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison for his role in transporting cocaine from Texas to northern Maine as part of an international drug ring.
Chad Hallett, 29, of Dieppe, New Brunswick, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 10 kilograms or more of cocaine as part of a plea agreement and testified against others in the drug ring that operated between Jan. 1, 2011, and June 28, 2012. He was sentenced in U.S. District Court.
Apolinar “Polo” Ortiz Islas, 42, was found guilty of the same charge last week. Ortiz Islas and Hallett were indicted last year by a federal grand jury along with Victor “Vic” Charles, 32, of Bacliff, Texas; Robert “The Border Guy” Rossignol, 60, of Van Buren; and Matthieu LeBlanc, 29, of Shediac, New Brunswick.
All five men have pleaded guilty. LeBlanc, Charles and Kyle MacDonnell, 35, of Houston, who was granted immunity, identified Ortiz Islas as the man from whom they purchased cocaine in Houston. Hallett testified that he drove the money from Maine to Houston and the cocaine back for LeBlanc.
Rossignol and the Texans were charged after Hallett 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. Hallett and LeBlanc agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and helped set up the deal that led police to Charles and Ortiz Islas.
Chief Judge John Woodcock credited Hallett’s willingness to testify against Ortiz Islas and took that into account in his sentencing.
Hallett was honest and forthcoming after he was arrested, said his attorney Rick Hartley.
He added that Hallett has taken a significant risk in handing over the names of key figures involved in the drug ring.
“The risk is real,” said Hartley. “He deserves recognition of that danger.”
The impact cocaine has on society was not lost on Judge Woodcock when he imposed the 48-month sentence.
“Like a petal on a pond, [cocaine] will have a ripple effect for a long, long time,” said the judge. “I suspect Moncton, [New Brunswick] is like Bangor in a lot of ways if you take the drugs out.
“Just because you won’t do it again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be punished for what you did,” Woodcock added.
Woodcock said Hallett appeared to be a smart man, was not addicted to drugs, had a steady job, supportive family and good upbringing. He also had no prior criminal history or arrests. That’s why the question of why he got involved in the drug ring was so confusing.
The judge called Hallett an “atypical drug trafficking defendant.”
“Based on this history alone, his involvement is surprising,” Judge Woodcock said in court. “It’s something of a mystery why this defendant is here.”
Several members of Hallett’s family were in court to support him. Hallett’s sister-in-law Katherine Hallett addressed the court on behalf of the family.
“Sometimes good people make bad mistakes,” she said while holding back tears. “We want the man back we know he can be. We don’t want our daughters growing up knowing this is all there is to their uncle.”
Chad Hallett apologized to the court and his family, and specifically to his parents.
“You raised me to be honest and hardworking. Thank you for being my parents. I love you,” he said.
Hallett faced between 87 and 108 months in prison for his charge. He will not be fined and is not eligible for supervised release as he will likely be deported to Canada after his release from prison. Hartley requested that Hallett be taken to Berlin, N.H., the closest federal prison to his family.
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.