The biggest pot dealer in New York City’s history was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison last month after a 5-year investigation sparked by an unsolicited tip from a disgruntled ex-girlfriend, according to a detailed account of his capture in The New York Times.
34-year-old French Canadian Jimmy Cournoyer, who loved expensive cars and parties, ran a highly sophisticated marijuana sales operation unprecedented in scale. He was responsible for the smuggling of over $US1 billion worth of narcotics and weapons, including more than 220,462 pounds of marijuana, over 182 pounds of cocaine and tens of thousands of MDMA pills. Since the investigation began in 2007, 100 defendants have pleaded guilty to trafficking charges related to his operation.
Cournoyer was so careful to avoid capture that he didn’t touch the drugs his subordinates handled and set aside $US2 million to fund the murder of those who crossed him, according to The Times. Nevertheless, federal agents received their first lead in early 2007 from the disgruntled ex-girlfriend of one of Cournoyer’s Queens dealers, who walked into a Drug Enforcement Administration office out of the blue and ratted him out.
Within a year, a task force supervised by federal prosecutor Steven L. Tiscione nabbed that dealer and turned him into an informant who told them Cournoyer’s alias name, Cosmo. That led agents to begin a series of wiretaps and sting operations that gradually whittled away at Cournoyer’s associates.
Among the many components of Cournoyer’s operation were Hells Angels members and Native Americans on an upstate New York Indian reservation, who smuggled marijuana into the U.S. from growing locations in British Columbia, Canada. Money from the marijuana sales was flown to California and invested in cocaine from the Sinaloa Cartel. The Canadian Rizzuto crime family sold the cocaine on Canadian streets and completed the cycle by investing some of their profits back into Cournoyer’s operation.
Agents eventually nabbed Native American trafficker Kenneth Cree and turned him into another informant. When Cournoyer gave Cree the phone number of a Los Angeles contact, undercover agents used it to track down Alessandro Taloni, another key player who managed Cournoyer’s west coast operations.
Agents caught a lucky break when a separate team of federal drug agents happened to be following a minor associate during the moment he delivered a cash shipment to a money launderer. The agents followed the launderer back to her Brooklyn apartment, where they found evidence of deals with Cournoyer’s major New York distributor, Bonanno crime family member John Venizelos, leading to his arrest.
By January 2012, federal agents had enough evidence to convince a Brooklyn grand jury to indict Cournoyer. A month later, Cournoyer tried to flee to Mexico but was detained by Mexican authorities upon landing.
You can read the full New York Times story here.
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