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Ever wonder about Striker Yachts...

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by SHAZAM, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. SHAZAM

    SHAZAM Senior Member

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    ...and the Phillips family behind them? From the Miami Herald...

    A key member of the infamous Miami-based Black Tuna Gang, the biggest U.S. marijuana-smuggling operation of its time, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service Thursday morning in West Palm Beach -- more than 31 years after he skipped out of a federal trial.

    Mark Steven Phillips, 62, was captured in his rented apartment at Century Village, a senior living community where he had been living in recent months, law enforcement officers said.

    ``The judge wants to see you, Mark,'' a deputy U.S. marshal told Phillips after rousting him out of bed.

    ``The judge wants to see me from 30 years ago,'' Phillips responded, according to the Marshals Service.

    Phillips was charged in May 1979 along with 13 others in what was then the nation's biggest pot importation prosecution in history -- before the dawn of the Cocaine Cowboy era in Miami. The trial was before U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, who is still on the bench. Phillips was convicted in absentia on racketeering, possession and distribution charges in February 1980.

    At his first court appearance in decades Thursday afternoon, a pale and bald Phillips was wearing a beige long-sleeved shirt, light-green shorts and tan sandals -- along with shackles around his wrists, ankles and waist.

    Phillips, who faces sentencing for the racketeering conviction and charges as a fugitive, told U.S. Magistrate Edwin Torres that he has no property, $600 in a bank account and receives $667 in monthly Social Security benefits. He told Torres that he couldn't afford a lawyer, so the magistrate appointed one for him, at taxpayer expense.

    ``I'm retired,'' he said. ``Your honor, I would like to say something. . . . I have no valid passport -- nothing but a bicycle, but I'm not going anywhere.''

    A joint DEA/FBI task force in Miami that took down the Black Tuna Gang estimated the ring smuggled 500 tons of marijuana into the United States over a 16-month period. The case was the first combined investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI on drug profits behind the marijuana trade.

    The gang operated, at least briefly, from a suite in Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel, according to the DEA.

    The Tunas invested in yachts, particularly Fort Lauderdale-based Striker Aluminum Yachts. Its treasurer, Phillips, whose family owned the company, retrofitted yachts for maximum carrying capacity, painting water lines on the hulls to give the illusion they weren't riding low even when they were laden with tons of marijuana.

    The grass was transported in these modified boats and unloaded at a series of waterfront ``stash houses'' in posh neighborhoods.

    The Black Tuna gang also used state-of-the-art electronic equipment to stay in touch with marijuana-laden freighters and to monitor DEA and Customs communications channels.

    A DEA-FBI probe of Florida banks called Operation Banco, which began in 1977, traced the group's drug profits through South Florida banks until members of the Black Tuna Gang made a large cash deposit in a Miami Beach bank.

    In the racketeering indictment, Phillips was accused of showing two vessels in 1977 to a co-conspirator that had been used in the smuggling of 20 tons of marijuana into the United States. He also was accused of going to a Miami address to pick up a suitcase filled with cash, and paying $223,000 to buy a yacht for future marijuana smuggling trips.

    After his arrest, Phillips was released from custody on July 5, 1979, on a $25,000 bond. He took part in his trial for more than a month, but then failed to show up on Nov. 5. King issued a bench warrant charging him as a fugitive.

    The Marshals Service soon learned Phillips had fled the country.

    In 1993, relying on informants, deputies discovered that he was in Santiago, Chile, had assumed a new identity, Marcus Steffan, and had married a Chilean woman. He also created a fishing company with her, calling it Fishing Research Inc., according to the marshals.

    Eight years passed before deputy marshals received new information that he was traveling between Chile and Germany. They learned from German authorities that Phillips had obtained a driver's license and passport in that country in the name of Marcus Steffan.

    According to the marshals, the ``fake'' passport was valid for the next 10 years.

    Knowing his new identity, deputy marshals began running checks on Phillips to see if he had entered the United States. They found that he flew into New York from London in August of 2000, and again several other times in 1999 and 1998.

    In February 2001, they discovered that he had been renting two New York penthouse apartments for $10,000 a month, using the name of Steffan Marcus, but that he had been evicted the previous year.

    Deputy marshals learned that Phillips flew from New York to Miami in January 2001, but they missed him by one month. He had continued on to Chile. He stayed there until 2010, when deputy marshals assigned to the Cold Case Fugitive Squad realized that he had slipped back into the United States and obtained a Florida driver's license under his real name in September.

    The address on his new license was wedged between Jackson Memorial Hospital and Miami's historic black neighborhood, Overtown: 1050 NW 14th St., Apt. 430. It was the address of a Rodeway Inn.

    Deputy marshals continued to track him down, this time to West Palm Beach, where they arrested him Thursday at the senior living community.

    ``Phillips never attempted to use his fake name,'' said Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden. ``All of his belongings were contained in one travel bag.''
  2. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    Wow, what an amazing story. You could almost sympathize with the guy except for a few of the details. I bet he wishes he hadn't walked away the first time.

    I wonder what the judge will do this time.
  3. Hattsoff

    Hattsoff New Member

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    Very interesting. This reads like a story line from an old 70's detective show like Cannon or Rockford files.
  4. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    I wouldn't like to guess what he will do but think something he won't do is grant the guy bail this time.

    It makes you wonder why he went back to using his own name after having avoided it successfully for so long.

    I wonder if after 30 yrs the cash was running low along with his contacts to get the false papers?

    Interesting to read that Informants were key to his whereabouts and name change being known to the Feds, I guess he didn't sever all ties when he flew the coop.
  5. There is a 70' Striker right outside my office, I will have to check the bilge more carefully.
  6. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    I guess the old saying that "you can run but you can't hide" is true. You can almost see a second generation of detectives checking databases every few weeks and making calls to old contacts just to see what turns up. This really is TV movie stuff isn't it?

    It does sound like he was broke and had run out of energy. Using his own name must have been one of those "I'm ready to give up" things that he knew would end in his capture before too long. He must have been tired of running and saw a really lousy future.

    At least in prison he won't have to live on cat food and depend on the hospital emergency room for medical care like so many other American oldies.
  7. travler

    travler Senior Member

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    yea i think you guy's are right at least this way we will get med attention and fresh food and a place to sleep and it won't cost him any thing but time , and he can spend that watching T V or what ever

    travler
  8. outlawten5

    outlawten5 New Member

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    It was said he was collecting social security but that he was found because of him applying for a drivers license. Govt agencies still dont communicate that well.
  9. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    i don't know what worries me the most... that he was collecting SS, that a drivers licensed was issues to a fugitive or that he was able to come in and out of the country a few times without getting caught at the airport!

    of course, considering the state of our southern border and the recent discovery of iran printed terrorism books along a trail used by smuggler, this guy story isnt' that worrysome! :)
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  10. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    "...the recent discovery of iran printed terrorism books..."

    I would rather have book stores filled with Iranian printed "terrorism books" than have the government keeping any book out of my hands.

    You know that old saying about trading "security" for freedom don't you?
  11. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    obviously.. but migrant workers crossing the southern border dont' read iranian terrorism manuals... so when oen such book is found in the desert, it's cause for worry!
  12. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    Porbably planted there by someone who sells gee whiz stuff to the border patrol.

    Or, looking at it the other way, any wannabe terrorist stupid enough to carry his how-to manual with him while sneaking across the most highly guarded border we have he can't be too bright anyway. Then losing the silly book after crossing pretty much puts him in amongst the lower level of threats I think.
  13. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    "across the most highly guarded border we have"

    you're joking, right?
  14. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    It isn't surprising. Most people involved in the boat building business in South Florida were involved in the drug business one way or another. Either knowingly building drug boats for customers who paid cash. Or running it themselves, or whatever. I heard stories from a friend of mine who worked at a big wellcraft dealership in the early 80's. They had numerous customers who would buy Scarabs, rip and throw the entire interior out on the dock in a big pile at the dealership.....including the refrigerators and everything else, and then drive the boat away. Drug running was pretty widespread back then in South Florida, and pretty obvious to who was doing what. All you had to do was go to Shooters.......you'd see 12 race boats tied up on a weekday night.......then all of a sudden at 11pm or later they'd all split, all at the same time.
  15. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    No. Do the math.

    We have just under 1,000 border guards on the 4000 mile border with Canada.

    We have about 10,000 border guards plus 1,200 National Guard troops along the slightly less than 2,000 mile border with Mexico.

    US/Canada border: number of guards per mile .25 or 1 guard every 4 miles.

    US/Mexico border: number of guards per mile 5 plus .6 NG troopers per mile.
  16. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    Those of us who worked in FL in the 80's saw a lot of this happen, avoided and just carried on with life on the water.

    I loved our little Donzi and I love those Strikers, there is not much good that came out of the 80's but those boats were great.
  17. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Were it not for those days Miami Beach would still be a retirement village, the boating industry would be a 10th of what it is today & most of the Mcmansions in the U.S. & elsewhere would never have been built. Much of the wealth of the 90's was a direct or indirect result of those days. Heck, the show COPS would have never hit the airwaves. In fact, think of all the "Save The Bales" t-shirts that would never have been produced.:D
  18. IslandLocuras

    IslandLocuras New Member

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    I lost a broker friend to an 'afternoon sea trial' of his high performance boat, he was found in the mangroves a couple of days later. There was more than flash or glory to the industry then... one had to be smart & cautious. This guy was a fugitive in the open, many knew his whereabouts. I think the 'dumbs' got to him & dad could not bail him out. The existing Strikers are still the Hummers of boating, will go through anything!
  19. RER

    RER Senior Member

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    Marmot, I usually find that your comments are intelligent, sometimes humorous and/or sarcastic, sometimes argumentative, but generally from an informed point of view and always interesting.

    But wow... you need to spend some time in California where not only is there no heavily guarded border. There is hardly a border at all.
  20. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    Don't know what to tell you man. Since I wrote that 10,000 border patrol figure I discovered it has doubled to 20,000. They must be doing something you can't see or they are keeping a lot of Dunkin Donuts shops busy.

    http://www.thelog.com/news/logNewsArticle.aspx?x=11975

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