Mark Phillips, Smuggler Fugitive Arrested After 31 Years, Was a "Bit Player"

Mark Phillips, the 62-year-old man arrested last week in West Palm Beach on a drug smuggling charge from 31 years ago, was a "bit player" in the large-scale pot moving operation, according to one of the leaders of the smuggling organization.

Authorities allege that Phillips, who ran a Fort Lauderdale yacht company in the 1970s, helped a gang known as the "Black Tunas" purchase boats that were customized to fit as much illicit cargo as possible. The ships were used to move huge quantities of weed up and down the Western Hemisphere.

Robert Platshorn served 30 years in prison for his role as the leader of the Black Tunas. He said Phillips' arrest is

"a total waste." Platshorn, who holds the dubious distinction of being the longest-serving pot prisoner in American history, made it clear that, while Phillips and his family sold the gang some boats, he was a very peripheral player in the operation.

"He never sold so much as a seed of pot and was no insider in the Black Tunas," Platshorn told the Juice this weekend. "He is a nice guy and may now spend the rest of his life in federal prison. 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 added, "My 30 years in prison was more than enough for all of us."

New Times had a cover story about Platshorn when he was released from prison two and a half years ago. His book, The Black Tuna Diaries, tells the tale of his years moving bales of bud and also his years behind bars. And he is featured in the South Florida pot-smuggling documentary Square Grouper, which will premiere later this year at SXSW in Austin. These days, Platshorn spends much of his time preaching the value of legalization to South Florida retirees.

Follow The Juice on Twitter: @TheJuiceBPB.

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Michael J. Mooney