BANGOR, Maine —The Houston man convicted by a federal jury last year of being part of a drug ring that funneled cocaine from Texas to Canada through Maine was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison on Wednesday in U.S. District Court
Apolinar “Polo” Ortiz Islas, 43, was convicted in October of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine between Jan. 1, 2011, and June 28, 2012.
Five kilograms of cocaine is equivalent to about 11 pounds of the drug, but based on testimony, more than three times that amount was purchased in Houston and distributed in New Brunswick.
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Ortiz Islas to a mandatory term of supervised release even though the defendant most likely won’t serve it.
Ortiz Islas has lived in the United States illegally for 23 years and is expected to be deported to his native Mexico after he completes his prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who prosecuted the case, told Woodcock at the sentencing hearing.
The Mexican man, through an interpreter, said that he “would have nothing to say.” He admitted to selling cocaine in Houston but denied being part of the conspiracy that involved Canadians, a Mainer and his fellow Texans, according to a previously published report.
He was indicted in August 2012 by a federal grand jury along with Victor “Vic” Charles, 33, of Bacliff, Texas, and Robert “The Border Guy” Rossignol, 61, of Van Buren. Indicted separately on the same drug conspiracy charge were two Canadian men, Chad Hallett, 31, of Dieppe, New Brunswick, and Matthieu LeBlanc, 32, of Shediac, New Brunswick.
All five men have pleaded guilty. Rossignol is serving a 10-year sentence and is housed at the Devens, Massachusetts, Federal Medical Center. Charles, who supplied cocaine to Ortiz Islas, is serving a decade-long sentence at the Beaumont, Texas, Federal Correctional Institution. Hallett and LeBlanc were sentenced to four years and eight years and eight months, respectively. Hallett is housed at a contracted correctional institution in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. LeBlanc is incarcerated at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
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.
“The Border Guy” was paid to drive the money and the cocaine across the border, the Canadians testified. Hallett would meet Rossignol on either side of the border to pick up either the money or the cocaine, according to testimony. Hallett then reportedly drove the money to Texas and the cocaine back to Maine.
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.
Ortiz Islas faced between 10 years and life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced between 12 years and seven months and 15 years and 8 months behind bars.