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Circular Crime Volume5:Buju Banton Co-Accused Arrested, Pending Deportation

Ian Thomas, a co-defendant of Reggae superstar Buju Banton in his 2009 drug case has been arrested on drug charges less than four and a half years after being released from federal custody.

Mark Anthony Myrie aka Buju Banton and Ian Lavatoure Thomas aka Yush were friends for many years.  Buju, who is known to be generally wary, almost to the point of being distrustful… trusted Yush.

Buju trusted Ian so much that he gave him unfettered access to his vehicles, his favourite being the silver Range Rover with the “JAH ONE” tags.  He also worked for many years as Buju’s road manager.

Ian came to America from Jamaica as part of a close knit family of brothers and sisters who settled in Lakeland, FL.  He was always ambitious and goal oriented.  He served in the U.S. armed forces before retiring to work for the State of Florida as a corrections officer.

He ultimately left his job in corrections so he could be able to tour extensively with Buju.

Ian was known to be very outgoing, engaging and friendly.  He attracted many women because he was like the ultimate guy to do girlfriend things with…while remaining masculine.  He loves spas, shopping, travelling, dining in exclusive restaurants and generally living la dolce vida.

Buju met a Colombian federal informant named Alexander Johnson aka Junior(seriously, who ever heard of a Colombian named Alexander Johnson?) while on a trans-Atlantic flight on July 26, 2009.

After learning that Johnson was from Colombia, Buju began discussing his experience in the illegal drug trade.  He also told Johnson to be careful of a mutual acquaintance from the drug trade who, according to Buju, had become a “snitch.”

Buju also discussed his aspirations to transport cocaine from Venezuela to Europe via Saint Martin on a sailboat.

Buju met Johnson met the following day and Buju asked Johnson for names of potential suppliers. Buju advised Johnson that he’d limited his dealings to merely financing drug transactions.

They met again on August 1 and sporadically kept in touch by telephone before meeting again on December 8.

On December 8, 2009, Buju, a female companion and Ian got into his silver Range Rover with the “Jah One” plates and headed toward Naples, FL  for what was supposed to be a day of fun in the sun.

As they neared Naples,  Buju called Johnson to give him a heads-up they would soon arrive. Johnson stated that the plans had changed, they were to proceed further north on I75 and meet him at a restaurant in Sarasota.

From there they would grab keys for a friend’s boat. Buju agreed.

In Sarasota, the three men sipped margaritas at the restaurant while the female friend sat in the Range. A short while later, the trio went to a dimly lit warehouse, where someone closed and locked the door behind them.

Inside, a stranger who was lurking in the corner began speaking to Johnson in Spanish, leaving Buju and Ian who do not speak Spanish clueless as to what was being discussed.

There was no boat or keys to a boat in sight.

Buju Banton became visibly nervous, asked to use the bathroom but was told the toilet was broken. He then said “Let me go do it outside,” but Johnson and the stranger ignored him.

The stranger then walked over to a parked car and opened a hidden compartment in the trunk to reveal 20 plastic-wrapped kilos of cocaine.  Buju would testify that at this moment, “I felt my stomach turn,” I tried to play it down and be calm. I keep telling myself… be cool, be cool, it’s gonna be, just be cool.

Ian Thomas was cool. This was his forte. He grabbed a kilo from the pile and placed it onto a workbench. Buju followed closely behind, and looked over Ian’s shoulder as he made a small incision in the packaging. Ian dabbed a fingertip of the powder on his tongue and proffered the blade to Buju, who followed suit.

After tasting the cocaine, Buju sat in a chair in the corner. He still appeared to be very nervous and uncomfortable while Ian made a call and appeared to be negotiating prices with a prospective buyer in Georgia.

Buju interjected, “Yo, find out how much he wants,”. He would later claim he had no idea who was on the line and that his remark was just an attempt to appear legitimate, to play it cool.

Buju claims he spent much of the drive back to Tamarac throwing up from a combination of stress and the margaritas he had a the restaurant. That night, Johnson called Buju twice. Buju ignored both calls.

The next day, Ian drove back to Sarasota by himself and met Johnson at an Applebee’s where negotiations ensued.  Johnson did everything he could to get Buju directly involved in the drug transaction.  Ian held out, informing Johnson that “he does not want to do nothing, man,”. “That’s not him, you know? Music, eat, sleep, shit every day.”

On the morning of December 10, 2009, Johnson, Thomas, and James Mack (the Georgia link) drove to the warehouse with $135,000.00 cash, where undercover detectives were again waiting. Thomas and Mack were then arrested in Sarasota and Buju was arrested at his home in Tamarac.

Buju was indicted and charged with (1) conspiracy to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 (Count 1); (2) attempt to possess five kilograms or more of cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 (Count 2); (3) possession of a firearm in furtherance of, and carrying a firearm during the course of, a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U .S.C. § 924(c) (Count 3); and (4) aiding and abetting the use of a telephone to commit a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 21 U.S .C. § 843(b) (Count 4).

It should be of particular note that Buju was never in the vicinity of the firearm (count 2), it was carried by James Mack.

This was undoubtedly a case built on the back of Janus-faced snitch — Alex Johnson, AKA Junior who has an extensive criminal history and had crystal clear financial motives to see Buju arrested.

While Buju elected to take his case to trial, Ian accepted a plea deal which saw him released from federal custody on August 23, 2013.  He immediately returned to his roots in Lakeland as a pariah.  Practically no-one wanted to have even a casual conversation with him because of the perception that he “snitched” on Buju.

Under pressure from past due child-support for multiple cases and unable to get back on his feet(wink wink) in central Florida as no-one wanted to chance being his next “get out of jail with reduced time” card, he took his show on the road and proceeded to South Florida.

Ian was arrested on February 16, 2018, in Miami-Dade county on the following charges:

Seq No. Charge Charge Type

At his first appearance on 02/17/2018, he declared himself indigent and was appointed a public defender.  His arraignment is currently scheduled for 03/09/2018.  He will not be afforded the opportunity to post bond as he is also being held on an immigration hold.

Buju Banton is currently scheduled to be released from federal prison on 12/08/2018.

  • If Alexander Johnson were a black man, would Buju have even given him the time of day on that plane?
  • Why was the federal government able to prosecute him on that gun charge even though he never had the gun, nor was he ever in the vicinity of the gun?
  • Will Ian Thomas attempt an “Alexander Johnson” to save himself from another prison term?
  • Will Ian attempt to have the USCIS waive his deportation (when that time comes) due to his connection to the Buju case because his life will be in danger if he’s returned to Jamaica?
  • Who was the “snitch” that Buju warned Alexander Johnson (there is no way this is the guy’s real name) about?