A prosecution document filed Tuesday in federal court publicly identifies, for the first time, the former owner of the Port City Music Hall as the head of a Portland-based cocaine distribution ring that was the target of a multi-agency wiretap investigation last year.
Robert Evon, 35, of Portland, had been previously accused in New York state of trying to smuggle 78 kilograms of cocaine from California, with a street value of close to $3 million. Until now, no law enforcement agency had accused him of drug trafficking in Maine.
Evon is identified by name four times in the new document filed in U.S. District Court in Portland in a case against Gavin Joannides, 23, of Portland, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Evon is labeled the “head” of the drug ring in the document filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Joyce.
But the court filings give no indication of how extensive the Maine operation may have been, other than that it involved “multiple people from Maine,” such as Joannides, who purchased cocaine from Evon.
“In the spring and summer of 2013, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies conducted a wiretap investigation targeting a drug trafficking conspiracy operating in the Portland, Maine, area. Through interceptions, surveillance and other law enforcement activities, agents identified Robert Evon as the head of the conspiracy’s daily operations,” Joyce said in the prosecution document.
Evon has not been charged in connection with the case in Maine. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Donald Clark, declined to comment on whether charges could be pending against him as a result of the wiretap investigation.
Evon has already pleaded guilty in federal court in Syracuse, N.Y., for his role in shipping 78 kilograms of cocaine from Los Angeles to Vermont in what authorities called an “international drug smuggling operation.” He faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison in that case. He is scheduled to be sentenced in Syracuse on July 31.
In the New York case, Evon admitted to arranging to have two soda vending machines filled with cocaine delivered from Los Angeles 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 vending machines to a rented storage facility in White River Junction, Vt., according to court records.
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 taken from inside the vending machines that were filled with cocaine. Unbeknownst to Irving, his contact was an undercover DEA agent, court records state.
In the Maine case, Portland police arrested Joannides on June 8, 2013, after learning from a wiretap that he was going to meet Evon at an unnamed bar in Portland to buy cocaine from him. Officers stopped the car in which Joannides was a passenger afterward on Commercial Street and seized nearly 30 grams of cocaine from him, Joyce wrote in the new filing.
The timing of the wiretap investigation came during the time Evon was either still the owner of Port City Music Hall or had just recently sold its assets to the company that runs the nearby State Theatre. Both the Port City Music Hall at 504 Congress St. and the State Theatre at 600 Congress St. are hubs of the downtown Portland live music scene.
Lauren Wayne, general manager of the State Theatre and now the Port City Music Hall, said her company completed the purchase from Evon on May 4, 2013, while the wiretap investigation was likely still going on.
“It’s all just shocking,” Wayne said after being told of the wiretap investigation.
Wayne stressed that 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, though it retained the name Port City Music Hall.
“We had no contact with Rob Evon after closing the asset sale. We’d stopped doing shows there with him a long time before we started discussing the asset purchase,” she said.
Evon left the nightclub business after closing the sale and briefly signed on to become a fishing boat captain. He was slated to work aboard the 46-foot Hazel Browne with bestselling author and renowned fisherman Linda Greenlaw, but the plans fell through.
Evon was arrested in Portland last July 31 on a warrant in the New York case. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 3 to a charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
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.