BANGOR, Maine — A Van Buren man pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to being part of a drug-running scheme to bring cocaine to Canada through Maine.
Robert Rossignol, 60, was indicted last year by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and failure to report the importation of $10,000 or more and aiding and abetting the same.
Five kilograms of cocaine is equal to about 11 pounds of the drug.
By pleading guilty, Rossignol agreed to forfeit the nearly $300,000 authorities seized in June and his silver 2006 Lincoln Mark LT.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ordered that Rossignol be held without bail pending sentencing.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Rossignol had been free on personal recognizance bail with strict conditions, according to court documents. He was required to wear an ankle monitor and live in Biddeford, far from his home in the St. John Valley. Rossignol also remained under house arrest while on bail.
Rossignol was arrested July 1 after two Canadian men — Matthieu LeBlanc, 29, of Shediac, New Brunswick, and Chad Hallett, 29, of Dieppe, New Brunswick — were arrested days earlier. The Canadians were stopped 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 Canadian men pleaded guilty to conspiracy drug charges last year and are awaiting sentencing.
Two other men, Victor “Vic” Charles, 32, of Bacliff, Texas, and Apolinar “Polo” Ortiz-Islas, 42, of Houston, were indicted along with Rossignol on the drug conspiracy charge. They are scheduled to go on trial in June.
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.
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.