Thursday, December 5, 2013
PORTLAND — A member of the Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club who testified against the club's former president in a trial earlier this year was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison for trafficking cocaine and marijuana.
U.S. District Judge George Singal told 52-year-old Robert Sanborn that his sentence might have been three times longer if Sanborn had not pleaded guilty and provided substantial assistance to prosecutors.
Sanborn was a key government witness in a drug trafficking case that involved more than 20 defendants, including several members of the Maine chapter of the Iron Horsemen.
Sanborn's testimony in a jury trial in May helped to convict Richard Szpyt, who was president of the Maine chapter at the time of the law enforcement sweep in early 2008. Szpyt will face the possibility of life in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry requested a sentence for Sanborn of 10 years and 10 months.
Singal handed down a sentence that is 20 months lighter. The judge said he made that decision because he is concerned about Sanborn's safety in prison, and because of the cooperation he provided to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
''Mr. Sanborn would probably be spending the rest of his life in prison'' if not for his cooperation and the recommendation from Perry, Singal said.
He told Sanborn that he will be only 61 years old when he gets out of prison, and he will then be on probation for five years.
''You have an opportunity to start a new life, but I want you to understand that for five years after that we are going to be watching you very, very closely,'' Singal said. ''This is your last chance.''
Sanborn apologized to the court and to his family members, some of whom attended the brief hearing in U.S. District Court. His attorney, Joel Vincent, said he and Sanborn appreciated Perry's recommendation.
Perry described Sanborn as a person who was ''at the epicenter of the retail distribution of kilogram quantities of cocaine and hundreds of pounds of marijuana.''
The arrests of Sanborn and 20 other defendants last year were part of a much larger investigation that targeted a drug supply chain linking Atlanta, Boston and southern Maine. Several people in Atlanta have been convicted, as have 15 defendants in Boston.
Overall, the case involved the movement of more than 110 pounds of cocaine and several hundred pounds of marijuana. The investigation in Maine was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the York County Sheriff's Office.
Of the Maine defendants, 16 pleaded guilty, one died and another recently had his case separated from the others.
Szpyt, 49, of Haverhill, Mass., Sherwood Jordan, 56, of Albany Township, and Ramon Dellosantos, 39, of Haverhill went to trial and were convicted on May 13.
Dellosantos was sentenced recently to 10 years and one month in prison. Jordan and Szpyt have not yet been sentenced. Szpyt faces the harshest punishment. Because of his two prior felony drug convictions in Massachusetts, he faces a mandatory life sentence.
Sanborn pleaded guilty in April to a single count of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana. Perry said he would have asked for a 27-year sentence if Sanborn had not cooperated.
The help of witnesses in such large cases -- and their testimony at trial -- is crucial for successful prosecutions, Perry said. The government must be able to provide enough incentive for defendants to cooperate, especially considering the risk of retribution.
Perry said he has not heard of any specific threats against Sanborn but he knows of ''prison chatter'' among inmates in federal prisons regarding Sanborn.
Vincent said Sanborn has been a model inmate at the Strafford County Department of Corrections facility in Dover, N.H., where he has been held for much of the past 19 months. Sanborn has participated in several programs, including drug and alcohol treatment, and he is close to receiving his GED.
''He still has some time in his life that he can make a contribution to society and to his family,'' Vincent said.
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: