1970s Marijuana Kingpin Arrested at Seniors Community

Published January 28, 2011

A key member of a Miami-based marijuana-smuggling ring was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday, more than 31 years after skipping out of a federal trial.

Mark Steven Phillips, 62, was arrested in his apartment at Century Village, a seniors community where he had been living in recent months, according to a press release by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Along with 13 others, Phillips was charged in May 1979 in what was then the country's largest marijuana importation prosecution in history. The ring, known as the "Black Tuna Gang," derived its name from the radio moniker for the group's Colombian source for marijuana.

Phillips, who faces sentencing for a racketeering conviction and adjudication of fugitive charges, told U.S. Magistrate Edwin Torres that he has no property, $600 in a bank account and receives $667 in monthly Social Security benefits, the Miami Herald reported.

According to the U.S. Marshals Service, Phillips was sleeping when deputies went to his apartment on Monday and was told the "judge wants to see you, Mark" by the lead deputy marshal.

"The judge wants to see me from 30 years ago," Phillips replied.

Authorities estimate that the ring smuggled 500 tons of marijuana into the U.S. in the mid-'70s.

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