He overcame a farm accident that crushed his legs at a young age and forced him to use a wheelchair. He escaped the nagging poverty of northern Maine, where his father and grandfather had scratched out livings as potato farmers. He did not settle for the life provided by a government disability check or work at the paper plant that for generations has supplied the bulk of its jobs. If his story were that simple, Michael Pelletier, now 51, could seem a success. After all, it was with his entrepreneurial mind and zeal for risk-taking that Pelletier chose a path that exploited his talents and gave him a comfortable life. Except there was a hitch: It was illegal.
“The boy with no legs,” as his associates called Pelletier, according to trial testimony, was the mastermind of a multimillion-dollar drug smuggling operation, paying swimmers to carry thousands of pounds of marijuana across the St. John River from Canada into Maine. With the money he made, prosecutors said, he bought a lakefront house and other real estate, Jet Skis, a tractor, a horse, and more. The Boston Globe profiles Pelletier, who was convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering, and Social Security fraud.