AKWESASNE - Several people face possible life sentences in prison and multimillion dollar fines after admitting in federal courts last week that they participated in a large-scale cocaine and ecstasy smuggling operation through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
April Burns, Elizabeth VanGuilder and John French pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Albany, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, while Allan G. Jacco and Melissa Arquette pleaded guilty to the same crime Thursday in federal court in Plattsburgh. Federal court documents by policy redact the ages and addresses of criminal defendants.
According to plea agreements filed with the courts, Burns, Jacco and Arquette face a maximum sentence of life in prison, although sentencing will be at the discretion of the court. Burns and Arquette face a minimum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $10 million, while Mr. Jacco faces a minimum sentence of 20 years, with a fine of up to $20 million. French faces a maximum sentence of 40 years and VanGuilder faces a potential 20-year term.
Daisy Realza and Dallas George had previously pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and are awaiting sentencing, with both possibly receiving life terms. Dontanion S. Grimes, a Massena resident who dated Van Guilder for a period of time, pleaded guilty in September 2011 and was sentenced May 24 to 6½ years in prison. Charges against Thomas Scovil, Massena, remain pending.
According to court documents, Ms. Realza acted as the leader and organizer of the operation that brought ecstasy south across the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall, Ont., for distribution by wholesale narcotics dealers in New York City and Boston. The organization exchanged the ecstasy for cocaine and cash in the two cities, with the drugs and money then being smuggled back into Canada.
According to Realzas plea agreement, between 2009 and March 2012, she directed the transportation of ecstasy several times a month, with each trip, on average, typically delivering about 50,000 ecstasy tablets to the wholesale dealers and returning with several kilograms of cocaine wrapped in bricks and destined for Montreal. For every load of ecstasy, Realza received at least $1,000 to $1,500 in payment. She also received additional money for every kilogram of cocaine delivered to her ecstasy source in Montreal.
On Feb. 15, 2011, state troopers seized about $12,500 in cash from a vehicle driven by French. At the time, French was working for Realza and had just delivered a load of ecstasy to Yonkers. On March 5, 2011, troopers seized about 53 pounds of ecstasy from a vehicle operated by Grimes, who was also transporting the load to Yonkers. According to court documents, all of the other defendants acted as couriers for Realza.
Realza and George are due to be sentenced Nov. 4 in Albany, while the remaining defendants are all due to be sentenced in December.