, Salem, MA

Local News

October 22, 2013

Man says he didn't know bag held $1M worth of cocaine

Grilli testifies that he thought he was delivering money

PEABODY — Jason Grilli admitted yesterday that he knew the arrangement was “shady.”

He said he was being paid $2,500 to pick up a bag at a Peabody hotel and deliver it to a truck driver in Boston, who would bring the bag back to Canada, where Grilli lives.

But, from the witness stand in Salem Superior Court yesterday, Grilli, 40, who is from a town just outside Montreal, insisted he had no idea that bag contained 11 kilograms — 25 pounds — of cocaine with a street value of $1.1 million.

Grilli is standing trial on charges of conspiracy and cocaine trafficking of more than 200 grams.

He testified that he thought the bag contained money that his friend “Benny” wanted to smuggle into Canada without having to declare it.

His attorney, Michael Farrell, conceded to jurors that Grilli is guilty of conspiracy to commit an unlawful act — but argued that there’s no proof that he knew what was in the large black bag he was carrying to a rented minivan in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn on Route 1 in December 2011.

Farrell repeatedly referred to the bespectacled Grilli as a “two-bit gofer.”

But prosecutor Gregory Friedholm argued that Grilli’s claim makes no sense.

Why would the Canadian organized crime kingpins entrust $1 million to a man who claims to be an unemployed waiter desperate for money to buy gifts for his kids.

“Does that make any sense?” Friedholm asked the jury. “Are they going to take a chance with someone who is not involved in this organization?”

Grilli insisted that he was simply trying to make some money and was desperate when he met a friend he identified only as “Benny” at a Tim Horton’s restaurant in Montreal. The friend asked him to drive to Peabody, pick up a bag from a man he knew only as “Chihuahua” and drive it to Boston.

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