Friday, December 23, 2016

Leader of 'Cornbread Mafia,' largest domestic pot operation, is nabbed after eight years on the lam

UPDATE, April 5: Boone has been extradited to the United States, Wolfson reports.

John Robert "Johnny" Boone
(photo via Kentucky State Police)
The one-time leader of the largest domestic marijuana production ring in the U.S. was arrested near Montreal Thursday after eight years on the run. John Robert "Johnny" Boone, 70, led the creation of what came to be known as the "Cornbread Mafia" in the 1970s and had been wanted since 2008, when police found 2,400 cannabis seedlings on his farm near Springfield. He has two federal convictions and faces the possibility of life in prison without parole if convicted a third time. He served 15 years in prison as the result of a 1987 arrest.

The Cornbread Mafia "operated in nine Midwestern states on isolated farms, guarded in some instances by bears and lions, and with workers described as a 'paramilitary force,' ultimately producing $350 million in pot seized in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, according to prosecutors," reports Andrew Wolfson of The Courier-Journal in Louisville.

Boone is the leading character and subject of the cover photo in The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate's Code Of Silence And The Biggest Marijuana Bust In American History, a book by freelance writer James Higdon, a resident of Marion County, Kentucky, where most of those arrested in connection with the ring lived. Another ringleader, Joe Keith Bickett of Marion County, recently published his own account, The Origins of the Cornbread Mafia, which reveals how the ring was established and how it got its name.

"The Cornbread Mafia considered themselves the modern-day successors to Kentucky’s moonshine runners during Prohibition, who often evaded federal agents in rows of corn stalks and barns, according Boone’s one time associate Les Berry Jr.," reports Fernando Alfonso III if the Lexington Herald-Leader. Boone was tracked by U.S. marshals and arrested by Canadian police on immigration charges. He is awaiting extradition. For the Marshals Service press release, via The Mirror, click here.
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