BANGOR – The ex-girlfriend of a St. David man accused of running a multimillion dollar marijuana distribution ring testified Thursday in federal court that Michael J. Pelletier told her the bundles of cash he hid in the home they shared were profits from drug smuggling.
Kendra Cyr, 44, of Madawaska testified that when she lived with Pelletier, 50, between spring 2003 and fall 2004, his only source of legitimate income was a monthly $550 Social Security check, but he had stacks of cash hidden in the house.
In exchange for her testimony, Cyr was granted immunity.
While Cyr lived with him, Pelletier made a partial payment on a house with $30,000 and bought personal watercraft, an all-terrain vehicle, horses and real estate – all paid for with cash proceeds from his marijuana distribution network that stretched from the St. John Valley to Portland, she said.
Opening statements and Cyr’s testimony took up nearly the entire first day of Pelletier’s jury trial being heard before U.S. District Judge John Woodcock. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Pelletier, who has been paralyzed from the waist down for decades, pleaded not guilty in September to 15 counts that include drug conspiracy, money laundering and Social Security fraud.
If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in federal prison and fines of up to $4 million on the drug charges alone. Prosecutors also are seeking the forfeiture of property allegedly owned by Pelletier, including real estate and vehicles that he allegedly purchased with the profits of the drug smuggling operation.
Cyr, a petite blonde, spent about five hours on the stand Thursday. She testified that she never saw Pelletier handle large amounts of marijuana. Several people who apparently did bring the drugs across the border from Canada dropped large amounts of cash off at the home she shared with Pelletier and her daughters from a previous relationship, Cyr said.
She described how she helped Pelletier on between 10 and 15 occasions organize the money into stacks of $1,000, then hide the stacks in the house. Each time, the cash totaled between $10,000 and $15,000, she said.
Cyr testified that she often traveled with Pelletier to Canada, Portland and Winn, which is northeast of Lincoln. He would meet people there and collect large amounts of cash, but she did not overhear details of the operation. She said that he told her that he had other people who handled the marijuana, which Pelletier kept at a nearby woodlot.
“I knew it was wrong,” Cyr said of her activities with Pelletier, “but I always minimized the involvement because we didn’t handle drugs.”
During fall 2004, while Pelletier was in the Aroostook County Jail for reasons that were not revealed to the jury, Cyr said she went to collect cash for him in Winn and Portland. Cyr testified that when she returned she did not count the cash but knew there were several bundles of $10,000. She said that she took $10,000 to reimburse herself – $5,000 for charges Pelletier had run up on her credit card, $2,500 for paying his Aroostook County attorney, and the remainder to leave him the following summer.
Pelletier and Cyr never married but did purchase his father’s home in both their names on Lakeshore Road with $30,000 in cash in May 2003, Cyr said. They then took out a $67,000 home equity loan on the property and gave $20,000 to Pelletier’s father and spent the rest on renovations, she said.
Cyr testified that Pelletier told her he got the $30,000 from the settlement of a personal injury lawsuit. His legs were broken when he was jarred from his wheelchair at a Bangor motel on Dec. 30, 2001.
On cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey showed Cyr a settlement letter for $35,000 dated six months after the couple bought the house.
During their relationship, which began online in 2000, Cyr said she worked three part-time jobs and earned about $24,000. She said that she could have afforded the house on her own but that it would have been difficult without Pelletier’s income from Social Security and alleged drug smuggling.
Defense attorney Matthew Erickson of Brewer pointed out discrepancies between Cyr’s testimony Thursday and her earlier statements to the grand jury and investigators. He also got Cyr to acknowledge that Pelletier could have had income from his woodlot harvesting and work to repair watches and jewelry at a workbench in the garage.
The two men accused of bringing marijuana across the border for Pelletier are scheduled to testify Monday.