A geriatric drug suspect found with a massive amount of cash as well as hundreds of pounds of high-grade pot faced a federal magistrate judge Thursday, his latest in a long series of drug charges dating back to at least 1974.
Dion, 78, looking fit and trim in his prison garb, pleaded not guilty to two counts of marijuana distribution during his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Boston. The charges stem from an investigation that began in June when he was pulled over on a Kansas highway for speeding.
Police found more than $800,000 dollars cash in his rented truck and records to a bank account with approximately $1.9 million in cash, all of which they seized.
According to a police affidavit, Dion told Kansas police "I don't even know who loaded my truck" and described himself as a "mule."
But the investigation led authorities to an even bigger cash and drug bonanza in storage facilities in North Reading and Saugus as well as locations in Arizona. In all, law enforcement seized a total of $15.3 million in cash along with 395 pounds of high grade marijuana.
"This is a substantial case," said private investigator Tom Shamshak, a retired police chief who was in the courtroom when Dion was arraigned.
Dion said little during the arraignment, mostly offering one-word answers to questions, though he did tell Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy he couldn't afford his own lawyer.
"Basically I'm indigent at this point," he said.
"Dion is trying to make it seem like he was sort of an innocent victim here, calling himself a mule," FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked Shamshak. "Knowing what was found in the storage lockers, do you buy that?"
"No, it's very incriminating. I think it was part of a well-designed criminal enterprise to bring marijuana to Massachusetts and then to distribute it," Shamshak said.
Dion's court-appointed lawyer, Hank Brennan, who recently finished defending James "Whitey" Bulger, had different point of view.
"The accusations against Mr. Dion are extraordinarily intriguing. There are number of different facets of the accusation, there is certainly a story to be told and the fortunate part about being a citizen in America is that you are presumed innocent," Brennan said.
If convicted, Dion could be sentenced to life on the more serious conspiracy charge he is facing.
Later Thursday, authorities unsealed charges against a co-defendant of Dion's, Glenn Freeman of Topsfield, charging him with several drug offenses as well. One other co-defendant's name remains sealed.