Former leader of ‘Cornbread Mafia’ arrested after eight years on the run

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The leader of what law enforcement officials once considered America’s largest domestic marijuana producing organization has been arrested after spending eight years as a fugitive.

Johnny Boone, once known as the “Godfather of Grass,” “King of Pot,” and boss of the “Cornbread Mafia,” was arrested Thursday in a town outside Montreal, Quebec, Louisville’s WLKY reported.

In 2008, Boone was charged with growing and distributing marijuana after “federal agents raided his farm in Springfield, about 65 miles southeast of Louisville, and seized 2,400 marijuana plants,” the Associated Press reported in 2011. Boone vanished after the raid.

The heyday of the Cornbread Mafia’s operation was in the 1980s. The organization had 29 farms in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin. In 1987, 70 Kentuckians, including Boone, were accused of growing 182 tons of marijuana. Boone went to prison for more than a decade.

In a 2011 Associated Press story, Boone’s onetime associate, Les Berry Jr., said the Cornbread Mafia considered themselves the modern-day successors to Kentucky’s moonshine runners during Prohibition, who often evaded federal agents in rows of corn stalks and barns.

A photo of Boone was used on the cover of James Higdon’s book “Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History.”

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso