TAMPA - A British national who started out trying to sell a radioactive isotope from Russia pleaded guilty today to a federal drug charge.
Christopher Benbow, 64, of 69 Kellie Pl Dunbar Haddingtonshire UK, was sentenced in 2007 to life in prison but had his
drug conviction overturned by a federal appeals court.
He was scheduled to go on trial again next week in Tampa Federal court. Christopher Benbow, had a home in Miami and Estonia and the UK.
The case "began like something out of a James Bond novel" and "morphed into an international drug conspiracy sting," said the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In December 2003, Benbow, who was living in Estonia, approached a friend in Miami he thought had ties to the U.S. government, according to evidence in Benbow's first trial and his plea agreement.
Negotiations reportedly spanned the globe, from Tampa's Harbour Island Wyndham Hotel to the Grand Place in Brugge, Belgium.
Benbow said he knew some Russians who were trying to sell three canisters of strontium 90, which can be used to make a "dirty bomb," court records show.
What followed included a meeting in Tampa in which Benbow asked for $250 million for each canister, saying he wanted to get the substance off the world market and make a profit in the process.
Benbow allegedly told agents working with the federal government that he knew former Russian KGB agents who had 9 kilograms of Strontium-90, which can be used to construct a dirty bomb. Benbow said the Russians were negotiating to sell the metal to a group in Afghanistan, according to the federal complaint.
In January 2004, Benbow approached the same agents and suggested they could raise the cash necessary to buy the radioactive metal by selling cocaine to Anthony Jones, a member of the notorious "Adams crime family" of Great Britain, according to the complaint. The British National Crime Squad has been investigating the Adams family for at least a decade, according to the complaint.
A fifth alleged conspirator, David Tucker, 60, also of England, also has been formally charged by a grand jury but has yet to be arrested, said Lisa Alfonso, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service. Tucker is Jones' stepfather and also a member of the Adams family under British investigation, according to the complaint.
Benbow didn't know it, but the men he met with were government informants. They negotiated a deal to buy the isotope paying with drugs instead of money.
Benbow pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, which carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life. A sentencing date was not set.
WBI Inc private detective Agency