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Fugitive to be sentenced after 31 years

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A man who has spent half his life as a fugitive has appeared before the same federal judge who presided over his trial in Florida 31 years ago.

Mark Steven Phillips, 62, who was convicted of drug charges in absentia in 1979, is to be sentenced May 26, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. Phillips, who was free on bail during the trial, left the country and spent years in Germany and Chile.

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His lawyer, Ed Shohat, told the newspaper no one commented during Friday's hearing on the coincidence that Phillips and U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King were reunited.

Phillips was corporate director of Striker Aluminum Yachts in Fort Lauderdale when he was arrested. He was charged with helping the "Black Tuna Gang" smuggle cocaine and marijuana into the country between 1974 and 1978 by supplying them with boats with hidden compartments.

He was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Cold Case Squad on Jan. 27 at an apartment he had rented outside West Palm Beach. Investigators said he returned to Florida last year and made himself easy to find by applying for a driver's license under his real name.

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Phillips faces up to 30 years in prison.

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