Jimmy Cournoyer's alleged career as one of the United States' biggest pot kingpins looks like the template for half the Hollywood movies about big-time drug dealers. The main difference is that he's Canadian.
Cournoyer, who comes from Laval, Que., is facing trial in New York on a raft of charges related to a billion-dollar distribution network that supplied marijuana from Canada to the entire U.S. eastern seaboard, the National Post reports.
Cournoyer, who was arrested last year in Mexico and sent to the United States, apparently had all the trappings of a successful drug dealer, including a sexy model girlfriend and a $2-million, 16-cylinder Bugatti Veyron, the fastest production car in the world.
But prosecutors allege Cournoyer had something else, a $2-million fund set aside to kill anyone in his organization that might talk to police.
According to documents submitted at pre-trial hearings, authorities were able to crack the encrypted Blackberry messages between Cournoyer and his associates, the Post said.
One message, sent by co-accused John Venizelos after Cournoyer and others were arrested gave a chilling warning to a man suspected of ratting them out.
“U just got to hope they never find out u said a word,” says the BBM message, according to a court document reported by the Post. “Seriously bro. I know he has like 2 mil away just to pay guys to handle that once he [is] sentenced.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Tiscione told the court the message is evidence Cournoyer has money set aside to kill co-operating witnesses.
“Cournoyer leads a vast criminal enterprise, many members of which are not in custody and some of whom have already attempted to intimidate potential witnesses against Cournoyer," the prosecutor said in a separate document.
All untrue, Cournoyer's lawyer, Gerald McMahon, told the Post.
"And, despite their obligation to turn material over to the defence in discovery, the government has yet to provide me with a copy of this statement supposedly made by [a] co-defendant,” McMahon said.
The New York Post reported last month that Cournoyer, who has the nickname "Cosmo," lived a jet-set lifestyle and threw parties that drew unwitting stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio.
The U.S. government's case alleges Cournoyer, allied with the Mafia and Hells Angels, controlled a drug-running empire from his base in Montreal, shipping tens of thousands of kilograms south via First Nations reserves that straddle the U.S.-Canada border. The proceeds were used to buy cocaine from Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel.
“The Cournoyer enterprise has cultivated relationships with criminal groups in numerous foreign countries, gained control over ports and customs checkpoints through a combination of covert operations and outright political corruption and has established smuggling routes into and out of the United States," Tiscione told the court.
“In particular, members of the Cournoyer enterprise have allied with smuggling groups on Native American reservations that straddle the U.S.-Canadian border. These Native American smugglers easily move illegal narcotics and people across the international border through sovereign tribal lands that are almost impossible for law enforcement agents in the United States to police.”
QMI Agency reported that documents it obtained show the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve that spans Ontario, Quebec and New York state a key transit point.
The DEA claim Cournoyer's ring brought in between $75,000 and $200,000 a week, QMI reported.
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Cournoyer, 33, was born into a wealthy family but his parents divorced when he was 16 after his father went bankrupt, the Montreal Gazette reported. He reportedly had trouble adapting to his family's reduced circumstances.
In 2004, a Porsche Cayenne he was driving at an estimated 140 kilometres an hour crashed, killing his friend Simon Bibeau. Cournoyer pleaded guilty to reckless driving causing death and was sentenced to 42 months in prison. He was released on parole in December 2007, the Gazette said.
The New York Post reported Cournoyer was arrested last spring after arriving on a flight to Mexico from Canada. Authorities denied him entry and he in turn refused to board a U.S.-bound flight, throwing tantrums in a vain attempt to avoid falling into American authorities' hands.