By DENISE LAVOIE
AP Legal Affairs Writer
BOSTON (AP) — When police in Junction City, Kan., stopped a beat-up pickup truck for speeding in June 2013, the driver got a lot more than a traffic ticket: The stop led authorities to Massachusetts and Arizona, where they said they found about $15 million in cash, almost 400 pounds of marijuana and ledgers detailing drug deals going back to 1992.
The driver, Marshall Dion, told police he was a retiree from Tucson who was living off his $690-per-month Social Security check. He also said he had left his drug-dealing days behind, but federal authorities say he was still going strong at age 78 as a key player in a large marijuana operation. In his truck, police found $828,220 in cash.
Now, Dion’s lawyer is arguing that the police stop and search of his truck were illegal, and everything found as a result cannot be used against him. His lawyer, Henry Brennan, plans to argue in Boston federal court on Tuesday that the evidence should be thrown out.
Much of Dion’s life is a mystery. Public records show he has lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; Grand Junction, Colo.; and Tucson, Ariz. He told police who stopped him in Kansas that he was headed home to Tucson from Pennsylvania, where he had met with his accountant.
Dion, now 79, appeared to live frugally, despite the millions authorities found and two homes he owned in Arizona. When he was stopped in Kansas, he was driving a 2002 GMC Sierra with an old refrigerator and other junk in the truck bed.
His legal troubles date back decades.
In 1985, Dion crashed a single-engine plane he was piloting in Kenosha County, Wis., and broke both his ankles. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, he was crawling along a muddy field as bills floated in the air, said Cathy Baxter, then a deputy sheriff.
“This guy didn’t even admit there was any money on the plane. He said, ‘That’s not my money. I don’t know where that money came from,'” Baxter said.
The government was allowed to keep nearly $112,000 recovered from the crash scene after a judge found it was likely drug proceeds. Dion was not charged criminally.
In 1989, after Boston police found more than 100 pounds of marijuana in his car, Dion was convicted of trafficking charges.
John Coffey, who prosecuted Dion in that case, said Dion wore a suit and bowtie and looked like a college professor. Conrad Beltzer Jr., Dion’s attorney in the case, said: “He wasn’t a flashy guy at all. He didn’t appear to have money.”
When Dion was stopped for speeding on Interstate 70 in Kansas, he allegedly told the officer he could look in his truck. “I am telling you I am clean. I’ve been out of the business. That was 23 years ago,” he said, according to a court filing by prosecutors.
Police used a GPS device inside Dion’s truck to re-trace his movements to a self-storage facility in North Reading, Mass., where they said they found $11.5 million cash, more than 168 pounds of marijuana and records of customers, amounts of marijuana sold and cash balances.
Dion’s records showed he “had been trafficking in large amounts of marijuana since at least 1992,” prosecutors said in a court filing.