The feds say that Mark Phillips, a 62-year-old West Palm resident, helped the Black Tuna gang smuggle pot into the United States when he ran a Fort Lauderdale yacht outfit in the 1970s. In 1979, they put out a warrant for his arrest, but he had fled the country. He returned last year, living a quiet life at the Century Village retirement homes, where he was arrested in January.
In federal court yesterday, Judge James King sentenced Phillips to five years in prison for his involvement with
the gang. According to the Herald:
New Times published a story in 2008 about Robert Platshorn, who had recently completed a 30-year prison term for his role at the top of the gang, called "Black Tuna" because that was the password allegedly uttered between parties when transferring pot onto ships.The judge followed the suggestion of defense attorney Edward Shohat, who argued that Phillips deserved leniency because of his bipolar disorder and his minimal involvement in the gang's dealings.
"After 32 years, to hunt down and 'capture' a bit player in a pot case is no credit to our government. It's a big waste of money. And a long jail term will be an even bigger waste of tax bucks," Platshorn told New Times in January.
Still, many of Phillips' supporters and advocates were expecting a harsher sentence. In a Facebook post, Platshorn wrote, "Thanks to a great lawyer, Ed Shohat and a kinder and gentler court, Mark Phillips the last of the Black Tunas who was found destitute in Century Village after 33 yrs on the run, received 5yrs+5yrs concurrent. Much better than was expected from the same court that sentenced me to 64yrs for non-violent cannabis first offense."
Phillips will have the possibility of parole and could face reduced time for good behavior.
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