Robert Evon, the former owner of the Port City Music Hall in downtown Portland, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Syracuse, N.Y., for his role in shipping 78 kilograms of cocaine from Los Angeles to Vermont in what authorities have called “an international drug smuggling operation.”
Evon, 35, of Portland, pleaded guilty before Judge Glenn Suddaby in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York to a single count of conspiracy to distribute the cocaine, which a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said has a local street value of roughly $2.7 million.
Evon arranged to have two soda vending machines filled in Los Angeles with 78 kilograms of cocaine and delivered to a warehouse in Elizabeth, N.J. He then had a co-conspirator, Kenneth Irving of South Portland, rent a box truck between Feb. 21 and Feb. 22, 2012, and drive the soda vending machines to a rented storage facility in White River Junction, Vt., according to court records filed Tuesday.
Irving, whom Evon agreed to pay $5,000 for his help, then called a contact in Albany, N.Y., to meet him at the Vermont storage facility, where Irving gave him six large duffel bags from inside the vending machines that were filled with cocaine. Unbeknown to Irving, his contact was an undercover DEA agent, court records state.
“The evidence appears to show that the Defendant was involved in a conspiracy involving importation of approximately seventy-seven (77) kilograms of cocaine through several states including California, New Jersey and Vermont, and Canada. The Government indicates that Defendant has ties to an international drug smuggling operation,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks wrote in a court filing in September. Documents filed Tuesday updated the weight of the cocaine to 78 kilograms.
Irving pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge identical to the one against Evon in the Syracuse, N.Y., court on May 29. Tuesday was the first time the two men were publicly identified in court records as co-conspirators.
Both Evon and Irving face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in federal prison and up to life imprisonment. Evon is scheduled for sentencing on April 4. Irving’s sentencing is set for Feb. 7.
Evon lived in Portland prior to his arrest on July 31 and ran the nightclub in Portland until he sold the business earlier this year, but he was never accused of any cocaine smuggling in Maine in connection with the case.
As part of a plea deal, Evon agreed to forfeit the house he and his wife, Lesley Evon, own at 374 Spring St. in Portland. The house has an assessed value of $575,000, according to Portland city records.
Lesley Evon and her attorney, Peter Rodway of Portland, also signed the agreement last month to forfeit the house, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
Evon owned the Port City Music Hall for years before selling its assets this year to the company that owns the nearby State Theatre in downtown Portland. Evon no longer has any connection to the nightclub at 504 Congress St.
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