SPRINGFIELD — Federal prosecutors believe they landed a "Whale" — a man alleged to have headed up an operation that trafficked a million dollars worth of marijuana from California to Pittsfield.
Federal authorities were led to 35-year-old Anthony "The Whale" Carnute, after a courier was stopped by police at Logan International Airport on Sept. 9, 2016, and found with over $74,000 cash stashed in luggage.
The courier told investigators they were working for a man in California named Simon Long and transporting cash proceeds from marijuana sales. They said they typically carried between $40,000 and $70,000 on those trips.
They identified Long's biggest customer as Carnute, who they knew as "Tony the Whale."
The money was a payment from Carnute for 20 pounds of marijuana, according to prosecutors.
A message left Friday at the office of Carnute's attorney, Daniel D. Kelly, was not immediately returned.
From May to September 2017, investigators surveilled packages from Long suspected of containing marijuana.
Despite phony return address information used on the packages, which were typically sent from different post offices, investigators said they were able to narrow down the area from which they were sent and establish a link between those packages and Carnute's associates, which led back to Carnute and Long.
Investigators went back through postal records and found that dozens of suspicious packages from northern California were sent to different Pittsfield addresses of alleged associates of Carnute's between September 2016 and September 2017.
When the packages arrived, Carnute would pick them up, then store the marijuana at three addresses in Pittsfield, one each on Linden Street and Strong and Glendale avenues.
Prosecutors allege those addresses were used to store, package, take orders for and sell the marijuana, as well as store the proceeds from sales.
On Sept. 27, 2017, investigators were granted a search warrant for one of those suspicious packages which contained over six and a half pounds of marijuana, split among six heat-sealed bags.
The following day, federal agents raided Long's home in Ukiah, Calif.
During that search, authorities seized a ledger which reportedly lists four Pittsfield addresses under the heading "Whale."
Long told police he gave Carnute the nickname of Whale, based on his first order of marijuana from him, which was 30 pounds.
Long told investigators he'd sold Carnute approximately $1 million worth of marijuana based on a total of 500 pounds at a rate of about $2,000 a pound.
Long said Carnute would pay for the marijuana in advance.
With the coordination of authorities, Long arranged a meeting in Pittsfield in which Carnute expected to pick up several packages of marijuana from an associate of Long's.
Police staked out the meeting spot and arrested Carnute, who was in a nearby car while a family member of his went to the meeting to pick up the packages, according to court records.
Carnute's bail was set at $10,000 following his arrest, and was later posted.
On Aug. 8, Carnute pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana, use of a facility of interstate commerce to distribute the proceeds of drug trafficking and conspiracy to do the same.
A status conference in the case is scheduled Oct. 10.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.