A former Port Authority maintenance worker pleaded guilty this week to his role in a conspiracy to ship cocaine from Georgia and Nevada to Pittsburgh using Federal Express and United Parcel Service.
John "Old Dude" Saban, 51, of Penn Hills, described by federal agents as a "large-scale cocaine trafficker" in Penn Hills and Garfield, also pleaded guilty to laundering money and carrying a gun while trafficking in drugs.
The case started when a Los Angeles-area police drug team stopped Mr. Saban in July 2011 near L.A. when he went to a FedEx office and picked up a package containing $32,000. A search of his vehicle turned up another $252,000, and a police dog detected cocaine residue, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
At the time, Mr. Saban said he had been laid off by the Port Authority and was traveling to Los Angeles to recruit entertainers for his company, Changing Entertainment, which proved to be a fictitious entity.
Federal agents later intercepted another package at Pittsburgh International Airport sent by Mr. Saban to Randee Gilliam, of Tucker, Ga., identified as Mr. Saban's cocaine source. That package contained $28,000.
Federal drug agents then tapped Mr. Saban's phone and the phones of others in the drug ring to identify the structure of the cocaine network and the shipment schedule from Atlanta and Las Vegas to Pittsburgh.
Mr. Saban was arrested March 16, 2012, at his house on Springdale Drive in Penn Hills after agents watched him and other members of the ring pick up packages of cocaine at various UPS facilities around the region.
Several other co-conspirators also were taken into custody that day after accepting cocaine deliveries, according to the DEA.
Mr. Saban is among 10 people indicted in the case -- eight from the Pittsburgh region and two from Georgia. Several others also pleaded guilty this week.
Sentencing for Mr. Saban is set for Dec. 3 before U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-231-0132.