Pot kingpin plea wraps up 5-year U.P. case

Pot kingpin plea wraps up 5-year U.P. case

MARQUETTE — After five years of legal wrangling, a drug kingpin pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Marquette.
It closes the door on one of the largest marijuana smuggling cases in Upper Peninsula history.

Pedro Kobasic, 47, of Chicago – who has several aliases – entered federal court this morning under tight security from U.S. Marshals.

Federal prosecutors said Kobasic was the ringleader of a marijuana distribution operation. He was among six people, one of whom was his own cousin, arrested by UPSET agents.

The smuggling operation involved the delivery of at least 400 pounds of marijuana from Chicago to the Upper Peninsula between 2005 and October 2009.

Kobasic told Judge Timothy Greeley today that he supplied the operation with marijuana on an “off–and–on” basis. A courier either drove the pot to the U.P., or it was sent by FedEx. The marijuana was then distributed around Delta County and other areas.

Under a plea agreement, Kobasic pleaded guilty.

“Today was Pedro Kobasik’s change of plea hearing,” assistant federal prosecutor Maarten Vermaat said. “He pleaded guilty to a superseding felony information charging him with conspiracy to distribute (marijuana) and possess with intent to distribute 50 kilos of more of marijuana. That’s about 110 pounds of marijuana. The charges in the case covered a multi-year period starting in about 2005 and ended on October 2nd, 2009. There were several other people, or co-conspirators, or co-defendants in the case.”

The kingpin’s cousin, Nathan Kobasic, 31, of Bark River, was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison in 2011 after admitting he helped distribute 220 pounds of marijuana.

Jody Williams, 35, of Escanaba was sentenced to 100 months in prison. Joshua Harrison, 28, of Escanaba was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Jason Schwalbach, 34, of Escanaba also got six months in prison.

Schwalbach was the first suspect arrested, when an UPSET agent posing as a FedEx deliveryman dropped off a package in October 2009 that police intercepted because of a Crimestoppers tip. Prosecutors said that Nathan Kobasic would then distribute the pot.

Pedro Kobasic is scheduled to be sentenced in March. He could be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $1 million or both.