Maine: Fatal accident on I-95 in Howland; 30-year old Ted MacArthur of Fort Fairfield, rest in peace.

State Police say the passenger was not wearing a seatbelt when he was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene.

HOWLAND, Maine — The Maine State Police say 30-year-old Ted MacArthur of Fort Fairfield died in a single-vehicle accident on I-95 south near exit 217 in Howland. The accident happened on Saturday at about 7:30 p.m.

Troopers say the driver, 30-year-old Leslie Greenlaw of Linneus, left the roadway and down the embankment hitting a culvert and rolled over.

MacArthur was not wearing a seatbelt was ejected from the car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Greenlaw was treated for non-life threatening injuries at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

State Police Reconstruction team was called to the scene to assist and troopers continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

 

US states file lawsuit accusing drugs firms of inflating costs

An assortment of generic pillsA lawsuit alleges that more than 100 generic drugs were included in a price-fixing scheme

More than 40 US states have filed a lawsuit accusing pharmaceutical firms of conspiring to artificially inflate the cost of common medicinal drugs.

The lawsuit alleges that as many as 20 companies have been involved in fixing prices for over 100 drugs, including treatments for diabetes and cancer.

One of the firms accused is Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest producer of generic medicine.

Teva, which has denied any wrongdoing, says it will defend its actions.

The legal action, which follows a five-year investigation, accuses drugs companies of involvement in a scheme to boost prices – in some cases by more than 1,000% – and was filed on Friday by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.

“We have hard evidence that shows the generic drug industry perpetrated a multi-billion dollar fraud on the American people,” Mr Tong said.

“We have emails, text messages, telephone records and former company insiders that we believe will prove a multi-year conspiracy to fix prices and divide market share for huge numbers of generic drugs.”

A representative of Teva in the US said that the Israeli company “has not engaged in any conduct that would lead to civil or criminal liability”, Reuters news agency reports.

The other 19 firms implicated in the lawsuit have yet to comment on the allegations.

Fifteen individuals were also named as defendants accused of overseeing the price-fixing scheme on a day-to-day basis.

According to the lawsuit, the drugs companies allegedly conspired to manipulate prices on dozens of medicines between July 2013 and January 2015.

It accuses Teva and others of “embarking on one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States”.

Mr Tong said the investigation had exposed why the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs was so high in the US.

America’s healthcare system has been at the forefront of US politics for years.

President Donald Trump has frequently promised to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, which was designed to make medical cover affordable for the many Americans who had been priced out of the market.

States have argued that eliminating Obamacare would harm millions of Americans who would struggle to meet the costs of medical care.

BBC: Cuban combat pilot released after 39 year US marijuana jail term

  • Bascaro
Bascaro was a fighter pilot for the government of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba

When the gates of the Miami Federal Correctional Institution closed behind him, ending his 39-year incarceration, Cuban exile and former anti-communist pilot Antonio Bascaro emerged holding an ominous record.

Bascaro, 84, has served the longest known US jail sentence for a non-violent marijuana conviction.

The city he finds is far from resembling the place he left back in the late 1970s when he was convicted of participating in a criminal organisation that smuggled more than 270,000 kg (600,000lbs) of Colombian marijuana into the United States.

Skyscrapers now soar above the south Florida horizon and many of the old tile houses of Little Havana, the Cuban exile neighbourhood where he spent most of his days before prison, no longer exist or have been converted into bars and restaurants.

There are even some legal medical marijuana dispensaries around the city which, for the octogenarian ex-cannabis smuggler, could not be more ironic.

Bascaro’s release after almost four decades also brings uncertainty about his future.

Bascaro ate a full Cuban breakfast with his family after his release from jailBascaro ate a full Cuban breakfast with his family after his release from jail
Wearing a Bay of Pigs veteran hat, he drinks a Cuban coffee for the first time in 39 yearsWearing a Bay of Pigs veteran hat, he drinks a Cuban coffee for the first time in 39 years

As a non-US citizen convicted of a major felony, he will find out next month if he will be deported.

His daughter Myra Bascaro is grateful he is free to go. “But where to?”, she wondered in an interview with BBC Mundo.

“To Cuba where he could get arrested again for having fought against Fidel Castro? To Guatemala where he met my mother but where he has nothing and nobody… the country that deported him to the United States almost 40 years ago?”

But in the meantime, he is back to enjoying Cuban coffee with his children. His first meal outside the walls of a federal penitentiary in 39 years was four eggs, double ham, bacon and a guava and cheese pastry. As he tucked in, he marvelled at the silverware, telling his family that he had not been allowed to use metal cutlery in decades.

Sitting alongside his son and grandson, who also became pilots, he thanked them and his supporters outside the jail, but added “it took too long”.

Short presentational grey line

‘My big mistake’

Back in 1977, Florida was the gateway for drugs into the United States. Miami was the capital of drug trafficking and Little Havana was the covert entrance into the booming underworld.

The state, the city and the Little Havana neighbourhood grew at the vertiginous pace of drug sales while the streets became the battleground where Cuban and Colombian mafias used bullets to settle business disputes.

By the late 70s, the cartels’ “Cocaine Cowboys” had already turned the market around, substituting white powder for weed.

But in Little Havana, marijuana was still the main cash crop.

One day in 1977, Bascaro’s friend Guillermo Tabraue, who owned local a jewellery shop, invited him around for a meal.

Little HavananLittle Havana is one of the most iconic Cuban neighbourhoods in Miami

“That’s where I met the boss and singular owner of the conspiracy,” Bascaro said in emails exchanged with the BBC before his release.

“After a tasty meal and some drinks, he challenged me to join him,” in receiving a shipment of drugs, he said.

“I accepted the challenge and I enjoyed the feeling of excitement,” said the former Cuban prisoner of war. “I had not felt it in years, so I ended up getting involved.”

But 39 years later, the CIA-trained veteran says he now feels “many regrets about what I did”.

He now hopes to spend his remaining years living “a peaceful life” near his family, and to focus on trying to “improve my deteriorated physical and mental health, try to re-organise my life, and be productive for my family and for society”.

Short presentational grey line

‘The fighter pilot who fought Castro’

Myra Bascaro was 12-years-old when her father was convicted in the US. She did not see him again until she was 24 during a visit to a prison in Pennsylvania.

“He had always been a hero for me: the fighter pilot who fought against Fidel Castro’s regime,” she says, describing him as an admirable man of conviction.

Myra and her fatherMyra Bascaro was 12-years-old when her father was sentenced in the United States

Myra said that she has always believed that her father got into drugs because he was divorced from her mother and felt pressure to earn money to help her and her brothers.

She tells BBC Mundo that for decades she fought to keep her father’s past from affecting her life.

But when he turned 80, she decided to quit her job and start a social media campaign to try to convince the US government to reduce his prison sentence.

“I did everything I could, but I didn’t achieve anything. Even though several [White House] administrations of the United States granted clemencies to hundreds of prisoners, it was always denied to my father,” she said.

Over the 39-year stretch that he spent in prison, several laws were passed that reduced penalties for people convicted of drug crimes. But none benefited Bascaro.

“Since his conviction in 1980, many new laws have benefited prisoners [who were] arrested afterward. But because he had been in jail for so long, those reductions were for people sentenced after him,” she said.

“It seems like they thought that anyone with a conviction so far back would be already dead.”

Short presentational grey line

‘I never betrayed my military honour’

Bascaro left medical school to join the Cuban Naval Academy in 1952, and later studied aviation in Pensacola, Florida, in 1954.

By 1956 he returned to Cuba and joined the country’s air force.

“I served as a Naval air pilot at the Mariel Air Base until Fidel Castro landed in Cuba. I volunteered to oversee the air patrols to prevent invasions or the entry of weapons into the area occupied by the guerrilla groups,” he recalls.

“I was the youngest naval lieutenant that ever served in Cuba’s navy. I was promoted to that post before turning 24-years-old, in 1958.”

BascaroBascaro fought as a pilot against Fidel Castro’s guerrilla in the Sierra Maestra

“That year, I had to carry out an emergency landing with my plane, the Marine 50,” he said describing the plane which is now kept in the Museum of the Cuban Revolution in Havana.

“I landed in the mountains, in the area that was controlled by Raul Castro.”

After the guerillas captured him, he was taken to hospital, where the brother of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro came to see him.

“He tried to convince me to join his group and I rejected the offer because I would never betray my principles or my military honour,” he says.

BascaroAntonio, fourth to the right, as an aviation student

After refusing, he was jailed from 11 November of 1958 until 2 January of 1959 (one day after the Cuban Revolution ousted the Batista regime).

Later, he was sent by boat to Havana’s Castillo del Morro prison where he remained until mid-March before being released and discharged by the navy a few days later.

La Cabaña fortressLa Cabaña Fortress was used as a prison by the government of Fidel Castro after the beginning of the revolution

“At the Morro prison I used to hear bursts of gunfire every night,” he says, adding that he was twice subjected to mock executions.

“I still don’t know why they didn’t kill me. Looking back, I have more lives than a cat.”

Short presentational grey line

A piece of history

The old cedars of Havana provide shade most of the year to a small square where an eternal flame burns.

Guarded day and night by soldiers, the fire flickers over the “relics” of the revolution.

The Vought Kingfisher, which Bascaro said he was flying, on display in the Cuban Museum of the Revolution
The Vought Kingfisher, which Bascaro says he was flying, on display in the Cuban Museum of the Revolution

In the yard of the Cuban Museum of the Revolution sits a red delivery truck that a group of young people used in an attack on the presidential palace in March 1957, with the intention of killing then Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, an attempt that failed.

There’s also the Granma, the yacht that Fidel Castro and his followers sailed to Cuba to start their insurrection.

And in front of that, in an overlooked corner, there’s a plane – a Vought Kingfisher that became the first aircraft used by the rebels.

the plaque
In the Museum of the Revolution, a plaque tells the story of the plane that Bascaro says he was piloting

The sign next to it describes how it was taken after being forced to land in the area of the II Oriental Front led by Raul Castro.

It was one of those rare instances in which a Latin American guerrilla had access to a plane, and was, in fact, the first aircraft in the hands of La Revolución.

Short presentational grey line

Bay of Pigs failure

In his emails with the BBC, he described being released from revolutionary prison by mistake, which caused him to go into hiding in Cuba for two months at his godmother’s house.

He then requested asylum from Uruguay before fleeing Cuba for Guatemala to join a CIA mission training Cuban exiles to invade their home country through the Bay of Pigs.

The air squadron that he commanded never took off to assist the CIA-trained agents, as the mission fell apart soon after the invasion began.

Bay of Pigs soldiersThe invasion of the Bay of Pigs was organised by the CIA

“On that day, the brigade had to disperse into the swamps and most of the officers left behind were captured,” says Bascaro.

“At that moment, I was ready to fly anything that had a motor or wings to help out my comrades abandoned in that secluded beach without escape routes,” he said.

“That was something that disturbed me and many of my comrades for a long time. I know that many of them decided to never fly again and ended up working in other activities.

“Not because of a lack of valour, but because of the deception caused by the fact that the brigade had been abandoned and sent to a certain death.”

Short presentational grey line

Refusing a deal

Fast forward to 1987 and the criminal organisation to which Bascaro belonged – under the leadership of a Cuban man 20 years younger than him – has a wide network of Colombian suppliers, lawyers, ships, planes and corrupt police officers in Florida.

But a combination of bad weather – and perhaps bad luck – brought an end to their endeavour when a shrimp boat they used to move drugs through the Gulf of Mexico got stranded and was detected by the FBI.

On 21 February, 1980, Bascaro was arrested in Guatemala. He was sent to Miami and handed over to the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

After a trial in Georgia, he was found guilty of “conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana”.

Bascaro rejected offers from US authorities to reduce his sentence in exchange for his co-operation on other investigations, leading to his sentence of 60 years in prison.

“I refused to co-operate because my moral values and ethics, as well as my military training, kept me from using someone else or from testifying against another person to solve my problems.

“No one forced me to join the conspiracy. That is why I did not co-operate or try to use anyone else to save my neck.”

BascaroBascaro is currently 84-years-old

As every member of the criminal organisation was eventually tried, sentenced and released, Bascaro became the last one of the group without his freedom.

He sometimes has wondered if there is some hidden reason for why every one of his requests for early release had gone ignored, before in 2019 his sentence was finally reduced by 20 years due to good behaviour.

Short presentational grey line

‘Judicial quirk’

Amy Povah, president of Can-Do Foundation, a US group working to reduce sentences for people arrested for drug-related crimes believes that the sentence against Bascaro will go down in history.

“Antonio was accused of conspiracy, which is one of the most abusive in the arsenal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) because it charges someone for the actions of others unless they co-operate,” she told BBC Mundo.

She said that because Bascaro rejected collaboration with prosecutors, he was charged with all the crimes committed by his accomplices.

A quirk of the justice system, Ms Povah says, is that those who reach agreements with US prosecutors receive lower sentences for helping them convict anyone who declines to co-operate.

In order to get the benefit of a plea bargain, one does not just confess, she said.

“Co-operation means you must give substantial assistance which, in legal terms, is defined as assistance ‘directed to the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities by persons other than the defendant.'”

According to Ms Povah, most defendants take the agreement, but those that refuse often end up with a “draconian conviction”.

25 from Maine, N.Y. charged in sweeping Downeast drug bust

The investigation involved more than 30 Maine drug agents, troopers, deputies, the FBI, Border Patrol, Secret Service, U.S. marshals and more.download (1).png

BANGOR, Maine — Fifteen people from Maine and 10 from New York were either arrested or charged this week as part of a major drug trafficking bust, involving a joint effort between 13 county, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Maine U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency announced the arrests and charges Friday, which arose from an investigation into drugs being trafficked from New York City to Washington County and Hancock County in Maine.

Seven search warrants were executed Thursday, the U.S. attorney’s office said, resulting in the seizure of several firearms, including a sawed-off shotgun and large amounts of crack and fentanyl.

Arrested and charged Thursday by criminal complaint in federal court were the following 14 people with the charge or charges proceeding:

From Maine…

  • Vestin Drisko, 40, of Beals Island; and Renita Honea, 57, of Jonesport, with distributing crack and heroin, and maintaining a drug-involved premises
  • Chandra Hanscom, 44, of Cutler, with distributing heroin
  • Cody Look, 30, of Cutler, with possession with intent to distribute crack
  • Barry McCarthy, 43, of Columbia; and Ralph Sawtelle, 27, of Lubec, with maintaining a drug-involved premises
  • Robert McKenna, 48, of Indian Township, with distributing crack
  • William Smeal, 32, of Hancock, with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl

From New York…

  • Jordy Collado, 18, of New York, New York, with possession with intent to distribute crack
  • Miquel Angel Franco, 22, and Milo Danell Germany, 21, both of Bronx, New York, with possession with intent to distribute cocaine
  • Cinque Grasette, 42, of New York, New York, with distributing crack and heroin
  • Mujahedeen Hasan, 28, of Bronx, New York, with distributing crack
  • Julian Lloyd, 24, of Bronx, New York, with possession with intent to distribute fentanyl

Kevin Leroy Barner, 53, of Bronx, New York, was arrested Thursday after having been charged by indictment March 28 with possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack.

RELATED: 2 New Yorkers charged with arson, selling heroin in Richmond

Additionally, charged Friday by criminal complaint in federal court were the following three people with the charge or charges proceeding:

  • Christopher Cruz, 30, and Christopher Martinez, 29, both of Bronx, New York, with possession with intent to distribute crack
  • Timothy Cates, 40, of Cutler, Maine, with maintaining a drug-involved premises

If convicted, Barner faces between five and 40 years in prison and up to a $5,000,000 fine.

Drisko, Honea, Hanscom, Look, McKenna, Smeal, Collado, Franco, Germany, Grasette, Hasan, Lloyd, Cruz and Martinez face up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for the drug trafficking charges.

Drisko, Honea, McCarthy, Sawtelle and Cates face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for the maintaining a drug-involved premises charges.

Part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, the investigation included: the MDEA; Maine State Police; FBI; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Border Patrol; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Marshals Service; and Maine Marine Patrol.

The MDEA separately announced Friday that it had charged seven people — six from Maine and one from New York — with drug trafficking, as part of the aforementioned investigation involving more than 30 MDEA agents:

From Maine…

  • Jessica Dana, 36, of Indian Township; and Rachel Dwyer, 46, of Lubec, with unlawful trafficking crack
  • Amber Douglas, 24, of Lubec, with unlawful trafficking heroin
  • Wayne Dube, 43, of Jonesport; William Gatcomb, 49, of Sullivan; and John Moholland, 50, of Princeton, with aggravated trafficking crack

From New York…

  • Craig Price, 29, of New York, New York, with unlawful trafficking heroin/crack

Cates, who was also charged in federal court, was charged separately by Maine drug agents with unlawful possession of fentanyl.

Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor convicted in US opioid case

John Kapoor

The founder of Insys Therapeutics John Kapoor has become the first pharmaceutical boss to be convicted in a case linked to the US opioid crisis.

A Boston jury found Kapoor and four colleagues conspired to bribe doctors to prescribe addictive painkillers, often to patients who didn’t need them.

The former billionaire was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy for his role in a scheme which also misled insurers.

Tens of thousands of deaths have been caused by opioid overdoses in the US.

Indian-born Kapoor founded drugmaker Insys Therapeutics in 1990 and built it into a multi-billion dollar company.

The jury found Kapoor had also misled medical insurance companies about patients’ need for the painkillers in order to boost sales of the firm’s fentanyl spray, Subsys.

The court heard that Kapoor – who was arrested in 2017 on the same day President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a “national emergency” – ran a scheme that paid bribes to doctors to speak at fake marketing events to promote Subsys.

During the 10-week trial, jurors were also shown a rap video made by Insys for its employees on ways to boost sales of Subsys.

Kapoor and his co-defendants – Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan – face up to 20 years in prison.

A statement from Kapoor’s lawyer said he was “disappointed” with the verdict. The men had denied the charges and have indicated that they plan to appeal.

Forbes listed Kapoor’s net worth as $1.8bn (£1.4bn) in 2018, before dropping off the publication’s billionaire rankings this year.

His conviction marks a victory for US government efforts to target companies seen to have accelerated the opioid crisis.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has said that opioids – a class of drug which includes everything from heroin to legal painkillers – were involved in almost 48,000 deaths in 2017.

The epidemic started with legally prescribed painkillers, including Percocet and OxyContin. It intensified as these were diverted to the black market.

There has also been a sharp rise in the use of illegal opioids including heroin, while many street drugs are laced with powerful opioids such as Fentanyl, increasing the risk of an overdose.

South Portland man, Lawz Lepenn arrested after police seize over 550 grams of cocaine, $15,000 from apartment

Lawz Lepenn, 37, formerly of Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking of drugs, unlawful possession of a firearm, and probation violence.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A man was arrested in South Portland Thursday night after the Southern Maine Regional SWAT team searched his apartment.

Around 8:30 p.m., agents entered the apartment at 113 MacArthur Circle in South Portland’s Redbank Village Apartments.

Their high risk search warrant was part of an ongoing drug investigation being conducted by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

During their search, agents found and seized 554.8 grams of cocaine, 1.8 grams of cocaine base, several suboxone strips, a .25 caliber handgun and ammunition, and over $15,000 in cash.

As a result of the investigation and search, Lawz Lepenn, 37, formerly of Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking of drugs, unlawful possession of a firearm, and probation violence.

Lepenn was previously convicted for aggravated attempted murder in Massachusetts.

Lepenn is being held at the Cumberland County Jail on a $15,000 bail for the new criminal charges. There is no bail on the probation charge.

Al-Jazeera/Fault Lines – Recovering from Rehab: Work-based Therapy in the US

Investigating US drug rehab centres where recovery through work is promised but exploitation of labour is the reality.

Recovering from Rehab: Work-based Therapy in the US

In the midst of an American drug epidemic, low-cost drug treatment has been in high demand, and across the United States, treatment facilities are offering clients a simple solution: check into rehab and work a job to pay for your treatment.

The result has been a national trend called work-based rehab, often celebrated by drug court judges seeking a cheaper way to send people to treatment instead of prison.

I mean granted, it’s better than prison, but if you’re trying to go for actual help for a drug problem, you’re not going to get it there.

Ethan Cenkus, former Cenikor client

But there’s a catch: the jobs for private companies that clients work are unpaid, the workplaces are often dangerous, and the labour practices that underpin the entire system could well be illegal.

In Recovering from Rehab, Fault Lines and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting investigate The Cenikor Foundation, one of the nation’s largest and most lucrative work-based rehab programmes.

Cenikor’s residential rehab facilities in Texas and Louisiana have partnered with more than 300 companies in the past five years, sending thousands of clients to work inside the oil and gas, warehouse, manufacturing, and construction industries – a practice that has garnered about $36m.

Drawing on the accounts of former staff who blew the whistle on this practice, we tell the stories of four men who were promised a chance at recovery from drug addiction – and are now recovering from rehab instead.

Source: Al Jazeera News