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Racer pleads guilty in drug case

After a long, bitter fight with federal prosecutors, a local harness racer took a plea deal late Thursday that is expected to put him in prison for 20 years.

And in an unusual twist, the admitted drug transporter, Hugh M. Stevens, asked for permission to serve his prison time in his native country of Scotland.

Stevens, 63, of Derby, was charged in October 2004 with being the transportation coordinator for one of the largest methamphetamine rings ever uncovered in North America.

He was scheduled to go to trial next week before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, but instead he decided to plead guilty to a felony count of running a continuing criminal enterprise and a conspiracy charge.

He faces a mandatory 20-year federal prison term when Skretny sentences him on Dec. 17.

Stevens already has spent nearly six years in jail awaiting trial. Because he is a Scottish citizen -- and only a legal visitor in the United States -- he asked for permission to serve out the rest of his time in a Scottish prison.

"He is not an American citizen. If he serves his sentence in an American prison, he would be deported back to Scotland anyway," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Duszkiewicz, who prosecuted the case. "We will not oppose his request to serve his time in Scotland."

Stevens' request is subject to approval by other agencies in the U.S. and Scotland, Duszkiewicz said.

A popular figure in local harness racing circles, Stevens was arrested in 2004 after a long investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Agents accused him and other racing associates of using horse trailers and other methods to transport ephedrine -- a key ingredient of methamphetamine -- for a drug ring with connections to Canada and Mexico.

Stevens, who owned, trained and drove horses, arranged to have numerous shipments of illegal drugs hidden inside horse trailers, the DEA charged.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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