Canada drug trafficker Jimmy Cournoyer has been sentenced to 27 years in prison, marking the end of a billion-dollar transnational marijuana empire with ties to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, Italian mafia families, and the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.
On August 20, Cournoyer was sentenced in a New York court for trafficking an estimated 109 tons of marijuana into the United States from Canada, reported the National Post.
Cournoyer, also known as the "King of Pot," was part of a criminal network that smuggled Canadian ecstasy and marijuana into New York and used the proceeds to purchase cocaine from Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, which was trafficked to and distributed in Canada. Cournoyer's group cultivated hydroponic marijuana in British Columbia, which was then transported across Canada by the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in tractor-trailers and trucks. Cournoyer also had ties to New York's Bonanno crime family and Montreal's Rizzuto mob, and allegedly maintained a $2 million execution fund to silence informants.
The day before Cournoyer's trial ended, John Venizelos -- one of his New York associates -- was sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to marijuana trafficking, reported the Montreal Gazette.
InSight Crime Analysis
Before his 2012 arrest in Mexico, Cournoyer was a major player in Canada's underworld. He allegedly began his career in drug trafficking at age 21, and by the time he was 30, he oversaw a network that smuggled an estimated 450 kilos of marijuana into New York a week. According to US prosecutors, Cournoyer controlled ports and customs checkpoints partly by corrupting officials and also conducted operations on sovereign indigenous lands with little law enforcement presence to avoid detection. US prosecutors said that in total, Cournoyer's network distributed at least $1 billion in illegal drugs.
Far from maintaining a low profile, Cournoyer reportedly lived an extravagant lifestyle, rubbing shoulders with US movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and driving million-dollar cars. One of his celebrity contacts, Canadian Ultimate Fighting (UFC) champion Georges St. Pierre, even wrote a letter of support for the drug trafficker that was used in his trial.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel Profile
The massive size of Cournoyer's operation was facilitated by his ties to North America's chief drug suppliers and distributors, including the Hells Angels -- who are major drug distributors in Canada -- powerful Italian-American crime families and Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel.