Milford Man Involved in Marijuana Trafficking Ring Sentenced to Nearly 8 Years in Federal Prison
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Robert Capelli, 34, of Milford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 95 months of imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release, for his role in a large-scale marijuana trafficking conspiracy. Judge Arterton also ordered Capelli to pay a $30,000 fine.
According to court documents and the evidence presented during Capelli’s trial, in 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration began investigating a Piper single-engine aircraft, owned by Donald Burns of Milford, that was making regular flights between Stratford, Connecticut, and northern California via the southwest United States. On June 28, 2017, Burns flew the aircraft from northern California to Lubbock, Texas. The next day, Burns flew the aircraft from Texas to Arkansas, and then to West Virginia and Connecticut, where he landed in the evening at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford. After it landed, a law enforcement search of the plane revealed approximately 400 pounds of marijuana in vacuum-sealed packages, and Burns was arrested. Investigators determined that the marijuana was intended for Capelli, Scott Bodnar, Terrell Givens and others to distribute in Connecticut.
The investigation revealed that, for more than two years, Capelli and his associates earned millions of dollars by trafficking nearly two tons of marijuana from California to Connecticut. Members of the conspiracy also laundered more than $6 million to purchase marijuana in California, maintain properties for distribution in Connecticut, pay Burns to transport the marijuana, and for other expenses related to the conspiracy.
On July 25, 2019, a jury found Capelli guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. Capelli was found not guilty of one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, and one count of money laundering.
As part of this case, Capelli also has forfeited $55,000.
Capelli, who is released on bond, is required to report to prison on January 14, 2020.
On May 2, 2019, Bodnar, of Ansonia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. On September 4, 2019, he was sentenced to 55 months of imprisonment and ordered to forfeit his 2012 Toyota Camry.
On May 3, 2019, Givens, of Beacon Falls, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. On September 11, 2019, he was sentenced to 55 months of imprisonment and ordered to forfeit his 2009 Jaguar XF and jewelry valued at approximately $8,000.
On May 6, 2019, Burns, of Milford, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute, and to possess with intent to distribute, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. He also has agreed to forfeit the Piper aircraft. Burns awaits sentencing.
This matter has been investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Haven Task Force, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP), the Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations Center, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Stratford, Derby and West Haven Police Departments, and the Second Judicial Drug Task Force in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Kale and Marc Silverman.
Updated December 4, 2019