BURLINGTON, Vt. — A man known as the Godfather of Grass, who escaped the grasp of U.S. federal agents almost a decade ago, was deported from Canada on Wednesday and was being held in a Vermont prison pending his return to Kentucky to face marijuana charges.
John Robert (Johnny) Boone was turned over to U.S. authorities by Canadian officials at the Highgate Springs port of entry. He was then taken to federal court in Burlington, Vt., where he was ordered held until he can be returned to his home state, Deputy U.S. Marshal John Curtis said.
Boone, 73, was convicted in the 1980s and spent a decade in prison for what prosecutors called the ‘‘largest domestic marijuana syndicate in American history.’‘ They said he was the head of the Cornbread Mafia, which had 29 farms in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin.
Eventually, 70 Kentucky residents were charged with growing 165 tonnes of marijuana.
During Boone’s 1988 federal court sentencing hearing, he invoked the hardships of the area where he lived southeast of Louisville, Ky.
‘‘With the poverty at home, marijuana is sometimes one of the things that puts bread on the table,’‘ Boone said. ‘‘We were working with our hands on earth God gave us.’‘
Boone — who was featured on the TV show ‘‘America’s Most Wanted’‘ and sparked a Facebook page called Run, Johnny, Run — has been described as a tattooed Santa Claus. Federal authorities who searched for him said that proved as difficult as ‘‘trying to catch a ghost.’‘
Also known as the King of Pot, he fled to Canada after a 2008 indictment on more federal marijuana charges in Kentucky. He was arrested by Montreal police at a shopping centre days before Christmas.