For Immediate Release
|January 27, 2011||
In Miami & Ft. Lauderdale Contact: Senior
Inspector Barry Golden at (954) 214-0301;
In West Palm Beach Contact: Deputy Marshal
Dave Say at (786) 216-9902
|U.S. Marshals "Cold Case Squad" Arrests Another Fugitive on the Lam for 31 Years|
West Palm Beach, FL – Deputy U.S. Marshals assigned to the “Cold Case Squad” in Miami have tracked down another Federal fugitive who has been on the run for the past 31 years. 62-year old Mark Steven Phillips was arrested today at an apartment complex in West Palm Beach after Deputy Marshals developed information he had recently rented an apartment in a 55 and older senior living community.
Phillips was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on May 2, 1979 and charged with Participating in a Racketering Activity, Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Unlawful Use of a Communication Facility, and Engaging in a Criminal Enterprise. Phillips was indicted along with 13 others defendants and was charged with violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statutes which charged that the organization imported multi-ton quantities of Marijuana and Cocaine into the United States between October 1974 and April of 1978. Phillips was the Corporate Director of Striker Aluminum Yachts in Fort Lauderdale, and he would function as broker to purchase vessels so the interior of the boats could be restructured to afford maximum cargo area for the transportation of the loads of marijuana to be received from mother ships on the high seas.
The 1979 Indictment states that in March of 1977, Phillips showed two vessels to a co-conspirator that had recently been used in the successful importation of approximately 20 tons of marijuana into the United States. Also in July of 1977, Phillips went to an address in Miami and picked up a suitcase filled with money. Later that same night, Phillips used the suitcase full of cash to purchase another yacht for $223,000 dollars to be used by the organization for future marijuana smuggling trips. The indictment states that once the marijuana was distributed to the enterprise’s wholesale customers throughout the United States, it would be sold at approximately $250 dollars a pound.
Phillips was released federal custody on July 5, 1979 after posting a $25,000 dollar bond. Phillips’ trial with his co-defendants began on September 17, 1979. For approximately a month and a half, Phillips took part in his trial, but on November 5, 1979, Phillips got cold feet and failed to show up that day at the Federal Courthouse in Miami. United States District Judge James Lawrence King issued a bench warrant for Phillips arrest, charging him with Failure to Appear for Trial. The trial continued even though Phillips had chosen to become a fugitive, and on February 4, 1980, the jury convicted Phillips in absentia on 7 counts to include Participating in a Racketeering Activity, and Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana.
The U.S. Marshals began a thorough investigation as to Phillips’ whereabouts, and all leads pointed to the fact that this fugitive fled the country. In 1993, Deputy Marshals began gathering intelligence from informants who stated that Phillips had fled to Santiago, Chile, and assumed a new identity in the name of Marcus Steffan. Phillips then married a local woman in Chile using that name and also created a commercial fishing company with that woman called “Fishing Research Inc.” This company paid Phillips under the Steffan name a fixed salary of $125,000 dollars. By the time Deputy Marshals received documentation of Phillips’ new identity, he had already fled Chile.
Eight years would go by before Deputy Marshals received new information that Phillips was traveling between Chile and Germany. In February 2001, Deputy Marshals received information from the Federal Republic of Germany that Phillips used a German driver license and obtained a German passport under the Marcus Steffan name. The German passport was issued in June of 1991 and Phillips then renewed that passport again in February of 1999. Phillips’ new “fake” passport was valid for the next 10 years.
Now that U.S. Marshals knew of Phillips’ new identity, they began running checks to determine if Phillips had attempted to enter the U.S. using his fake name. That inquiry hit pay dirt and Deputy Marshals were advised that Phillips flew into New York aboard a British Airways flight from London in August of 2000, and again several other times in 1999 and 1998. Deputy Marshals in Miami sent leads to U.S. Marshals in New York to determine if Phillips was living there under his “fake” name.
In February of 2001, Deputy Marshals in New York discovered Phillips had been renting two penthouse apartments for $10,000 dollars a month using the Steffan Marcus name, but the Marshals also learned that Phillips was evicted in August of 2000. The New York Marshals also checked other addresses for Phillips, but then learned Phillips flew from New York to Miami in January of 2001, and then continued on to Chile in February of 2001. The Marshals in New York had missed this elusive fugitive by one month.
Phillips remained in Chile until 2010, when Deputy Marshals assigned to the “Cold Case Fugitive Squad” in Miami realized that Phillips has slipped into the United States and obtained a Florida driver license under his “real” name. On September 17, 2010, Phillips obtained a Florida I.D. card and used and an address of 1050 NW 14 Street Apt. #430, Miami, Florida. The address Phillips put on his Florida ID card was actually a local motel. But Deputy Marshals didn’t stop there. They continued to track down this fugitive who has been spanning the globe for the past 31 years using a fake name.
When Deputy Marshals developed new information that Phillips was possibly living at an address in West Palm Beach, they wasted no time checking it out.
Today, a team of U.S. Marshals from Miami and West Palm Beach went to the apartment Phillips was renting at the senior living community, and woke up Mark Steven Phillips while he was sleeping. The lead Deputy Marshal told the fugitive, “the Judge wants to see you, Mark”. The fugitive replied, “the judge wants to see me, from 30 years ago.” Phillips never attempted to use his fake name to the Deputy Marshals who were there to arrest him.
Deputy Marshals say it appeared that Phillips was still living out of a suitcase. There were no clothes in the drawers in the apartment. All his belongings were contained in one travel bag.
Phillips was transported to the Miami Federal Courthouse and will make his initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge today at 1:30 pm.
In the near future, Phillips will make
another appearance before the Honorable United States District Judge James
Lawrence King, the same Judge he walked out on during his criminal trial 31