Mark Phillips, Smuggler Fugitive Arrested After 31 Years, Was a "Bit Player"

Categories: Crime
Mark Phillips mugshot.jpg
Mark Steven Phillips, 62, arrested after 31 years on the run.
Mark Phillips, the 62-year-old man arrested last week in West Palm Beach on a drug smuggling charge from 31 years ago, was a "bit player" in the large-scale pot moving operation, according to one of the leaders of the smuggling organization.

Authorities allege that Phillips, who ran a Fort Lauderdale yacht company in the 1970s, helped a gang known as the "Black Tunas" purchase boats that were customized to fit as much illicit cargo as possible. The ships were used to move huge quantities of weed up and down the Western Hemisphere.

Robert Platshorn served 30 years in prison for his role as the leader of the Black Tunas. He said Phillips' arrest is

"a total waste." Platshorn, who holds the dubious distinction of being the longest-serving pot prisoner in American history, made it clear that, while Phillips and his family sold the gang some boats, he was a very peripheral player in the operation.

"He never sold so much as a seed of pot and was no insider in the Black Tunas," Platshorn told the Juice this weekend. "He is a nice guy and may now spend the rest of his life in federal prison. After 32 years, to hunt down and 'capture' a bit player in a pot case is no credit to our government. It's a big waste of money. And a long jail term will be an even bigger waste of tax bucks."

Square Grouper.jpg
Platshorn added, "My 30 years in prison was more than enough for all of us."

New Times had a cover story about Platshorn when he was released from prison two and a half years ago. His book, The Black Tuna Diaries, tells the tale of his years moving bales of bud and also his years behind bars. And he is featured in the South Florida pot-smuggling documentary Square Grouper, which will premiere later this year at SXSW in Austin. These days, Platshorn spends much of his time preaching the value of legalization to South Florida retirees.

Follow The Juice on Twitter: @TheJuiceBPB.

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The US embassy in Chile sent him back to the US and repatriated him with ID and passport and gave him housing. He was not hiding at all. His name was removed from the NCIC list. Warrant was dropped. One part of the government does not know what the other part is doing.He was not a kingpin. He fled the country in 1979 because he was being tried as a co-conspirater and not allowed to have separated legal representation, instead lumped in with the trial of the real kingpins. He could not get a fair trial.He turned himself into the US embassy in Chile in 2009. The USMC decided to drop the charges against him and arranged to have him brought back to the US in May of 2010. They paid for his airfare, and hotel, gave him food stamps and set him up with social security for more than six months. They knew where he was all the time! They did not suddenly catch him.

beth marlow
beth marlow

He has already served his time,away from family all these years for what; selling boats to people. You can't control what people do with their boats. Don't we need jail space and the cost of it for real criminals who think nothing of killing others, rape and ponzie schemes?


Let's fire teachers, police, fire fighters and have enough money to hunt down and incarcerate an old man who was unjustifiably arrested over 30 years ago. America and it's priorities! Geesh!

Joe Pike
Joe Pike

No, we as tax payers need to pay about $50,000.00 a year to keep this guy in jail. No way we can let him live out his life on social security, he needs to be punished with 3 square meals a day, health care, and a cell at one of those Federal Country Club prisons.


At a time of economic shortfalls all over the place, how can any law enforcement agency justify spending money to hunt, arrest or hold this man? He was a small role player in a POT smuggling operation 31 years ago? Might be time to let that one go guys.

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