The former owner of the Port City Music Hall in downtown Portland is facing a federal charge in a cocaine trafficking case in New York.

Robert Evon, 35, of Portland made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, N.Y., last week. He is charged with a single count of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Evon was indicted July 25 by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, and arrested in Maine on July 31.

Federal prosecutors are seeking to have Evon forfeit $2.34 million, representing the value of property he used or intended to use as part of the alleged cocaine trafficking scheme. Prosecutors have also put a lien on Evon’s house at 374 Spring St. in Portland, which has an assessed value of about $575,000, according to city records.

Evon has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Kenneth Moynihan of Syracuse, did not return a phone message or email seeking comment.

Evon sold the assets of the Port City Music Hall earlier this year to the company that owns the nearby State Theatre, and no longer has any connection to the nightclub at 504 Congress St.

A prosecutor in Syracuse, Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Brown, said the indictment against Evon is solely for activity in New York on Feb. 21-22, 2012, and does not accuse him of any wrongdoing in Maine.

Brown would not discuss specifics of the case.

A charge of conspiracy requires actions by more than one person, but so far Evon is the only person charged in the case. Few other details are in court files.

News that Evon had been indicted and arrested surprised some people who knew him in his club-owning days, including bestselling author and renowned fisherman Linda Greenlaw, with whom Evon briefly went into business chartering fishing tours out of Portland Harbor.

Pete Kilpatrick, lead singer of The Pete Kilpatrick Band, said he was “shocked” to hear about Evon’s arrest. The band played at the club at least four times while Evon owned it.

“I had absolutely no idea” of the drug accusation before Wednesday, Kilpatrick said. “He was always a nice guy to me. He liked our band and liked having us in the club.”

While Evon always treated his band well, Kilpatrick said, the club went “downhill” from the first time the band played there to the last time.

“It was the kind of thing that, when it opened, it was a beautiful place, but by the end they didn’t even have a working bathroom backstage,” Kilpatrick said.

Greenlaw said she ran a charter service, with Evon working as captain of the Hazel Browne.

She said Evon seemed to just “disappear” and she tried to find out what had happened to him.

“I was shocked to hear he had been arrested,” Greenlaw said. “I can’t imagine anyone not being surprised.”

Greenlaw said she knew that Evon was in trouble before news came out about his arrest, but had been told by acquaintances that no one knew many details.

Evon told the Portland Press Herald in April that he and his wife had been trying to sell the Port City Music Hall for more than a year, and that running an independently promoted nightclub had become too taxing for him.

Lauren Wayne, general manager of the State Theatre and now the Port City Music Hall, declined comment on Evon’s arrest.

She said her company bought the club from Evon only as an asset sale of the property inside, taking over his lease. She said her company, Crobo LLC, did not buy the actual business from Evon, though it retained the name Port City Music Hall.

Since the sale, the club has changed most of it staff, she said. “Most of the security team here is new.”

Evon is now scheduled to stand trial Oct. 21.

 

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com