MIAMI – (CBS4) -A man who was a member of a large-scale marijuana smuggling operation in the mid-1970s had been on the lam for nearly 31 years.
Authorities say 62-year-old Mark Steven Phillips has used aliases in Germany and Chile and even married a Chilean woman under an assumed name.
But when authorities finally caught up to him, they didn’t have to travel far. A U.S. Marshal roused him from a bed in a senior living community in West Palm Beach.
Phillips had been arrested in May of 1979 and bonded out on July 5, 1979. He fled midway through his federal trial on November 5, 1979. A judge issued a bench warrant and it would take 31 years for a U.S. Marshal to finally serve it.
According to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, Phillips awoke to find a deputy U.S. Marshal over his bed who reportedly told him, “The judge wants to see you, Mark.”
To which Phillips replied, “The judge wants to see me from 30 years ago.”
It may very well be the same judge. According to the Herald, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King who was the judge during his trial remains on the bench.
In February of 1980, Phillips was convicted in absentia for the following charges: racketeering, possession and distribution charges.
Phillips was a member of the Black Tuna Gang that operated out of Miami in the mid-1970s using yachts and high-tech equipment to evade authorities.
But the DEA and FBI estimated the gang smuggled 500 tons of marijuana into the country during a 16-month period. They often used “stash house” in upscale neighborhoods throughout South Florida, The Herald reported.
Phillips was accused of smuggling 20 tons of marijuana into the country. He was also accused of going to a Miami address to retrieve a cash-filled suitcase, the Herald reported citing the racketeering indictment.
Phillips was present throughout the first month of his trial, but eventually fled.
Informants told authorities Phillips was living in Santiago, Chile, under the name Marcus Steffan in 1993. He had married a Chilean woman and launched a fishing company called Fishing Research Inc., the Herald reported.
He was also reported living under an assumed name in Germany. But when agents tried to find him, they discovered he had gotten a Florida driver’s license using his real name in September.
The next time someone calls his name it will be before a Miami federal magistrate where he was expected to appear Thursday.
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