QUEENSBURY -- Police and prosecutors hit gold, literally, in the recent case of a local man who pleaded guilty to participating in a large-scale marijuana distribution ring.
Authorities last fall unearthed an estimated $2 million in gold bars that Eric R. Canori had buried on property on Blackberry Lane in Queensbury.
Canori, a Wilton resident who used to live in Queensbury, divulged the location of the gold cache as part of his forfeiture of $5.25 million in cash, real estate and other personal property that was part of his plea deal last year to a federal marijuana distribution conspiracy charge.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Warren County District Attorney’s Office stand to gain several hundred thousand dollars, and possibly as much as $750,000, when all of Canori’s assets are liquidated by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Local authorities would not discuss the gold discovery Wednesday, referring comment to federal prosecutors.
The gold came to light Wednesday at a Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting as supervisors discussed possible use of the proceeds from the case to buy patrol cars for the Sheriff’s Office.
Court records show that Canori agreed to forfeit five vacant lots in Queensbury’s Blackberry Circle subdivision and three other vacant lots on Farm Way Road in Kingsbury and Dimmick Road in Wilton.
It was unclear exactly where the gold bars had been buried on the Blackberry Lane properties, or on which property. The properties are owned by Peerless Development LLC, a company Canori set up.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Bellis, who prosecuted the case, acknowledged that a quantity of gold bars were forfeited, but he said the forfeiture aspect of the case was handled by another arm of the federal prosecutor’s office.
How much the county will gain from the case is not yet known, he said.
Bellis said Canori wasn’t the first drug dealer his office has seen who invested drug-dealing proceeds in precious metals.
“Drug dealers with a lot of cash on hand need to move that cash,” he said. “It is one way of laundering that money.”
Canori, 33, was arrested in 2009 as part of an investigation into a cross-country marijuana network that led to the seizure of 380 pounds of marijuana and nearly $2.5 million in cash.
He pleaded guilty last June, and is awaiting sentencing. He could face up to 40 years in federal prison when sentenced June 12.
Canori’s lawyer, David Holland, said he would have no comment on the case until after sentencing.
Warren County supervisors plan to use some of the money to buy patrol cars for the Sheriff’s Office. Under federal law, drug forfeiture money has to be used to fund law enforcement personnel, equipment or services that target drug activity.