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Fugitive in infamous Southold drug case caught after 29 years on the run

05/21/2018 6:01 AM |

A co-defendant in the case against a former Cutchogue supermarket owner convicted in an international drug conspiracy has been arrested after nearly three decades on the run, federal court records show. 

Jacob Moritz, 71, one of three men indicted along with former Southold resident William LaMorte in 1989, was arrested soon after crossing the Canadian border into Rexford, Montana, in the early morning hours April 15, according to a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Border patrol officers had been searching for Mr. Moritz and another man after receiving a tip of two suspicious men emerging from a wooded area not far from the border.

Mr. Moritz did not initially cooperate with law enforcement and was only identified as a fugitive through fingerprinting, agents said. The second man, identified only as a Canadian national, was not charged and was returned to his home country.

It is unknown how long Mr. Moritz had been in Canada, but he told agents he was returning to the U.S. to see family. He said he had been “staying with friends” in Canada and had just $1,800.

Mr. LaMorte, who owned the former Key Foods in Cutchogue, had been the only person arrested in association with the indictment, which accused the four men of smuggling more than 1,200 tons of marijuana and hashish into the U.S. and Canada from ports in countries like Morocco and Lebanon in a series of shipments from 1971 to 1986.

Mr. LaMorte was convicted in March 1991 and sentenced to 50 years in prison and ordered to pay $49.2 million in fines.

The well-known businessman later admitted to The Suffolk Times in a jailhouse interview that he would transport the drugs from freighters anchored miles offshore through Gardiners Bay to houses his family owned in Southold using smaller boats. He always maintained that he should not have been convicted, saying he had stopped smuggling drugs years before his arrest and the statute of limitations had passed.

Mr. LaMorte, who died in prison on July 4, 2007, at the age of 60, lost several appeals of his conviction.

Mr. Moritz, who pleaded not guilty last month to the decades old indictment, was released on a $100,000 bond posted April 23 by his sons, attorneys Jonathan and Dillon Brozyna of Tampa, Fla., court records show. He is currently living in a Tampa apartment owned by Dillon, where he is monitored through the use of GPS and subject to a 7 p.m. daily curfew.

The case has since been transferred back to Southern District Court in Manhattan, where Mr. Moritz is scheduled to appear for a second time today, Monday. The 1989 indictment states that Mr. Moritz lived in Connecticut and New York City at the time he vanished.

Co-defendants Fayez Barade and Harry Sunila remain at large.

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