Pot-growing ‘Cornbread Mafia’ chief, after 8 years on the run, is heading to prison

Johnny Boone
Johnny Boone

A Kentucky man who helped lead what was once called the biggest marijuana-growing operation in the nation was sentenced Thursday to four years and nine months in federal prison.

John Robert “Johnny” Boone, now 74, headed the colorfully named “Cornbread Mafia,” which federal authorities said grew more than 180 tons of marijuana in Kentucky and other states in the 1980s.

Many of the dozens of people charged in connection with the conspiracy were from Marion County, where Boone once lived.

Boone, called the “Godfather of Grass,” by some, served more than a decade in prison after getting caught growing marijuana in Minnesota in 1987.

Boone was living at a farm in Washington County in May 2008 when Kentucky State Police officers spotted marijuana while doing aerial surveillance, according to a court record.

Police found more than 2,400 plants at the site, but Boone reportedly fled after the raid.

He was a fugitive for nearly eight years before being arrested in December 2016 in Canada, where he was living under a fake name.

Authorities brought Boone back to Kentucky, where he pleaded guilty in December to a charge of conspiring to possess more than 1,000 pot plants with the intent to grow and distribute the marijuana.

The top sentence on the charge would have been five years in prison, though the sentence range under advisory guidelines was 46 to 57 months.

Boone’s attorney’s sought probation for him, but senior U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III handed down the maximum sentence under the guidelines.

“Our Commonwealth is in the throes of a deadly addiction to heroin, and illicit drugs and marijuana is a young person’s gateway to a lifetime of drug abuse and associated crime,” U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said in a release.