WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- The kingpin of the largest American marijuana production in history has been caught after nearly a decade on the run.

The U.S. Marshals Service says it found Washington County, Kentucky, fugitive Johnny Boone in Canada. 

Boone is the ringleader of what many call "the Cornbread Mafia." He ran 30 pot farms across Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin.

In 1987, Boone was arrested with 90 tons of drugs on a farm in Minnesota.

"Johnny did about 15 years, got out and was an ex-convict," author of Cornbread Mafia, James Higdon, said. "This is one of the most intelligent men I've ever met."

Higdon lives in Louisville and is the only reporter Boone has talked to about his illicit business. Higdon says the word "mafia" is used only because the black market operation was well-run and tight-lipped.

"This was not an inherently violent group. They're not running protection rackets or extortion," Higdon said.

In fact, Higdon says people who know 73-year-old Johnny Boone think highly of him. He says that became a problem for authorities when he left the country nearly a decade ago. Higdon says Boone was considered to be a type of "Robin Hood" -- and no one who knew him was talking.

"Every fugitive has someone who doesn't like them or is willing to rat them out, but Johnny Boone wasn't one," Higdon said.

Boone disappeared when he was found with 2,000 marijuana plants on his Kentucky farm.

After nearly 10 years, he was arrested Thursday when information led the U.S. Marshals to a small town outside of Montreal.

Higdon says the Cornbread Mafia has forever changed the landscape of the war on drugs.

"The scope and scale these guys have operated, you can't really do anymore," Higdon said. 

Boone is charged with the manufacture and possession with intent to manufacture and distribute marijuana. It's his third federal case and if he's convicted, he could face life in prison. 

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