Man Denies Kidnapping Couple While Pleading Guilty in Cocaine Trafficking Case

A Montreal man denied involvement in the kidnapping of a New York couple last year as he pleaded guilty to charges for a botched cocaine trafficking plot, the Associated Press reported.

Georges Yaghmour, 40, admitted to the U.S. District Court in Vermont that he was involved in an effort to smuggle 3,300 pounds of cocaine from Peru to Vermont and then Canada before his arrest months later.

Prosecutors said Yaghmour's cocaine plot was connected to the September 2020 kidnapping, when the couple was allegedly taken and held for ransom after a shipment of 110 pounds of cocaine did not reach its intended destination in Canada. The cocaine had been seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Vermont, but others involved in the trafficking conspiracy did not immediately find out, AP reported.

The couple from Moira, New York, was taken to Canada, where Quebec police rescued them. Yaghmour denied involvement in the kidnapping during the hearing, though prosecutors did not allege Yaghmour was connected.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Drugs Seized by DEA
A Montreal man pleaded guilty to being part of a plot to smuggle 3,300 pounds of cocaine last year, 110 pounds of which were seized by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Vermont. Above, members of the DEA at a prescription drug collection event in White Plains, New York, on April 24, 2021. Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Yaghmour was arrested in Florida in November 2020, where he had traveled to discuss why the cocaine had not been delivered as scheduled, authorities said.

The charge to which Yaghmour pleaded, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, carries a maximum sentence of up to 40 years in prison. The plea agreement calls for a sentence of just over 11 years. Sentencing is scheduled for March.

U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford outlined to Yaghmour the consequences of entering a guilty plea, including that as a Canadian citizen he could be prohibited from reentering the United States after he returns to Canada.

"My biggest punishment is I cannot come back to the States," Yaghmour said.

Prosecutors say Yaghmour, at the direction of others, was involved in a meeting in Burlington in December of 2019 to discuss the plan to move cocaine between Peru and Canada via Vermont.

At the meeting, which included an undercover DEA operative and another person who was cooperating with law enforcement, Yaghmour asked about shipping the drugs from South America to Mexico, but the DEA agent proposed shipping the drugs to Vermont for further distribution, according to the plea agreement.

A couple weeks later, an unnamed co-conspirator delivered $150,000 to the undercover agent as a down payment. In the spring of 2020, the DEA undercover operation took delivery of cocaine in South America for shipment to Canada via Vermont, according to the plea agreement.

Two controlled deliveries were conducted, one in Massachusetts and the other in Vermont, but none of the drug reached its intended destination in Canada.

It was after the Vermont shipment failed to arrive at its Canadian destination that the New York couple—ages 70 and 76, and the grandparents of one of the Vermont couriers—were kidnapped by others involved in the conspiracy, authorities said.

They were taken across the border and moved to a house in Magog, Quebec. The kidnappers asked for a ransom of the 50 kilos of cocaine that had been seized in Burlington or a payment of $3.5 million.