Via Cape Cod Times Online
DARTMOUTH – Nearly six weeks ago, when federal agents intercepted the 79-foot sailboat Sarah Moira heading to the U.S. from Jamaica, they scored a major international drug bust – seizing the boat’s cargo of 4,497 pounds of marijuana and arresting the captain and his crew.
Local police are now revealing that the trail to this $8.1 million pot bust began some 1,500 miles away, in Dartmouth.
The captain of the vessel and the target of a federal probe is 58-year-old James Ormonde Staveley-O’Carroll, a shipbuilder and self-described firebrand liberal, whose daughter, Sarah, is married to Michael K. Matthews, the son of MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews.
Staveley-O’Carroll is the owner of the Sarah Moira, a steel-hulled sailing vessel, which a task force of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents intercepted on Nov. 21 off the coast of Bay St. Louis, Miss.
The boat was taken to the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Gulfport, Miss., where drug-sniffing dogs found two wooden crates, filled with individually wrapped packages of marijuana, in a forward compartment, according to a federal affidavit in support of the charges.
Staveley-O’Carroll and co-defendants J. Boone Ferrie, 20, and Brian Parker, 27, both of Attleboro, are charged with conspiracy to possess controlled substance with intent to distribute, conspiracy to import controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute and importation of controlled substance with intent to distribute.
The three men are scheduled to go to trial Feb. 14 in U.S. District Court in Gulfport before Judge Louis Guirola Jr., following their indictment on Dec. 7, according to Sheila Wilbanks, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Mississippi.
Ferrie and Parker were each released on $25,000 bond while Staveley-O’Carroll is being detained in Mississippi, Wilbanks said.
Dartmouth police said the investigation started more than a year ago when ICE agents contacted Lt. Robert Szala because Staveley-O’Carroll lived in Dartmouth. Szala said he worked with federal agents, collecting information and searching records about Staveley-O’Carroll at town hall.
While federal agents were searching the Sarah Moira, Dartmouth police executed a search warrant on Staveley-O’Carroll’s large farmhouse and detached garage at 196 Division Road, near the Westport line.
Officer Scott Brooks II, who prepared the search warrant, along with Police Chief Timothy M. Lee and Szala, said last week that evidence was collected during the search. Brooks said the search warrant is sealed and they would not disclose details of what was searched or what was seized.
According to the Dartmouth assessors’ online database, the Division Road property is owned by Nancy Elizabeth Brennan, who purchased it in February 2005 from Staveley-O’Carroll for $100. Dartmouth police identified Brennan as Staveley-O’Carroll’s wife.
According to the federal affidavit, the interception is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security agents and stems from information provided by a confidential informant that the Sarah Moira was smuggling about 4,000 pounds of marijuana from Jamaica to the U.S.
Ferrie and Parker told federal investigators they were hired by Staveley-O’Carroll to prepare the boat for a trip to Jamaica to pick up a load of marijuana. They said they left Jacksonville Nov. 7 and arrived approximately two miles off the coast of Jamaica on Nov. 14, according to the affidavit. They told investigators two small boats arrived at their vessels with bags filled with marijuana and they loaded the marijuana on the vessel and set sail for the U.S.
Lee said the investigation into Staveley-O’Carroll was one of the reasons he wanted to resume police harbor patrols this past summer.
“We don’t know what he has done here before, but that was a driving force behind our wanting a Dartmouth police presence on the waterfront,” the chief said.
The chief said this case underscores the town’s commitment to fighting drug trafficking.
“Even if you’re a big dealer, we’re going to get you,” he said. “If you are dealing drugs in Dartmouth, we will find out about it and we will arrest you.”