PORTLAND – When he was growing up in Jamaica, Hal George McKoy had a grand vision of what life was like in America.

In the mid-1980s, he took a job as a security guard for diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Kingston. They told him stories and brought him copies of the Miami Herald newspaper, and by 1987 McKoy was ready to move to the states.

Not long after arriving in this country, though, McKoy found himself among a group of young men who had their own ideas about how to achieve the American dream, and selling drugs was the preferred method.

“I went down the wrong path, your honor,” McKoy told Judge D. Brock Hornby during a sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon in federal court. “I’ve been paying for it ever since.”

McKoy, of Waterbury, Conn., was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role as a leader in a trafficking ring that smuggled more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana into Maine from 2006 to 2009. After he serves his sentence, he will almost certainly be deported back to Jamaica.

He was one of 12 defendants who were indicted by a grand jury in Portland in July 2009 after an investigation led by the FBI. All of the defendants have pleaded guilty. Some of them have been sentenced, while others are awaiting their hearings.

Prosecutors said McKoy and his cousin Sean McKoy, also of Waterbury, led the conspiracy, directing the flow of marijuana into Maine through a network of suppliers in the Northeast. Sean McKoy was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison.

Because of a prior drug conviction in Connecticut, Hal George McKoy was subject to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison for his conviction. But federal prosecutors recommended less because McKoy gave the government information that helped lead to the convictions of others.

“The information he provided to the government was extremely useful and met a high standard in this case,” said McKoy’s lawyer, Andrew Friedman.

McKoy told Judge Hornby that he never intended to become a drug dealer, but once he started down that path he felt trapped and he did not want to lose the comfortable lifestyle that he was able to provide for his three children. McKoy said he lied to them, and only recently told them the truth about his crimes.

“I want to apologize to the United States of America for my actions. I want to apologize to my family for the pain I’ve caused,” McKoy said, glancing toward the back of the courtroom, where his two daughters wiped away tears. His son is in the military and could not attend the sentencing.

“I think I’ve wasted my life here,” he said. “I hope one day I can make up for it.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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