A Montrealer pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Vermont to being part of an effort to smuggle 1,500 kilos (3,300 pounds) of cocaine from Peru to Vermont and then to Canada in a conspiracy that the prosecutors, was linked to the kidnapping of an old man. couple from York last year.
In a video hearing in U.S. District Court Thursday, prosecutors said the plot involving Georges Yaghmour, 40, was part of the same plan that resulted in the couple’s kidnapping Moira, New York, in September 2020 , although prosecutors did not allege Yaghmour was involved in the kidnapping.
The couple were held for ransom after 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of cocaine have not reached their intended destination in Canada. The other conspirators were unaware that the cocaine had been seized in South Burlington, Vermont, by agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. The couple were taken to Canada and then rescued by Quebec police.
Yaghmour was arrested in Florida in November 2020, where he visited to discuss the reasons the cocaine was not delivered as planned, authorities said.
Yaghmour’s charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine carries a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison. The plea deal provides for a sentence of just over 11 years. Sentencing is scheduled for March.
During the 40-minute hearing, Yaghmour admitted to participating in the cocaine conspiracy, but said he was not involved in the kidnapping.
U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford explained to Yaghmour the consequences of a guilty plea, including the fact that as a Canadian citizen he could be barred from returning to the United States after returning to Canada.
“My biggest punishment is that I can’t come back to the United States,” Yaghmour said.
Prosecutors said Yaghmour, under the guidance of others, attended a meeting in Burlington in December 2019 to discuss the plan to transfer cocaine between Peru and Canada via Vermont.
At the meeting, which included an undercover DEA agent and another person who cooperated with law enforcement, Yaghmour asked about shipping the drugs from South America to Mexico, but the agent DEA offered to ship the drugs to Vermont for later distribution, according to the plea. agreement.
A few weeks later, an anonymous co-conspirator handed the undercover agent $ 150,000 as a down payment. In the spring of 2020, the DEA undercover operation took delivery of cocaine to South America for shipment to Canada via Vermont, according to the plea agreement.
Two controlled deliveries were made, one to Massachusetts and the other to Vermont, but none of the drugs reached their intended destination in Canada.
It was after the cargo from Vermont did not arrive at its Canadian destination that the New York couple – aged 70 and 76, and the grandparents of one of the Vermont couriers – were kidnapped by others involved in the plot, authorities said.
They were taken across the border and moved to a house in Magog, Quebec. The kidnappers demanded a ransom for the 50 kilos of cocaine that had been seized in Burlington or a payment of $ 3.5 million.