A Charleston sailor scheduled to go on trial in Bermuda this week for conspiring to import millions of dollars worth of marijuana abruptly pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday, a settlement his wife said she hopes will bring him home sooner rather than later.
Andrew Blatchley's plea came two days before his trial was set to open in Bermuda's Supreme Court, and almost a year after he was arrested on his 36-foot sailboat heading away from the island.
Blatchley, 59, pleaded guilty to money laundering the proceeds from drug trafficking. Co-defendant Peter Sagos, 36, from Ottawa, Ontario, pleaded guilty to possessing the proceeds of criminal conduct. The charge Sagos pleaded to covers offenses related to money laundering under British law.
Details of the plea were reported by The Royal Gazette newspaper on its website.
Blatchley's wife, Sandi, who lives in the Charleston area, said she hopes the plea means her husband can return to South Carolina quickly, possibly after getting "time served" credit for the nearly 11 months he's been held at the island's Westgate Prison.
"It means he can come back to the U.S.," Sandi Blatchley said after receiving word of the plea. "It means he'll be able to have his life back."
Phone calls to the case prosecutor and to Blatchley's attorney were not returned.
Blatchley, a native of England, was a regular on the Charleston boating scene. On Oct. 3, 2009, he and two passengers were leaving Bermuda on his 36-foot sailboat "Bomba Shack" heading to Jamaica when Bermuda maritime authorities ordered them to halt approximately 14 miles out to sea.
"They said they wanted to search the boat for drugs," Blatchley said in a letter he wrote to The Post and Courier after his arrest. "I found this peculiar as I was leaving!"
The group was taken back to Bermuda, where a search of the vessel was conducted and all three were questioned. Three months later, Blatchley's passengers -- friend Jeannie Harden and Canadian Edide Plourde, who had chartered Blatchley's boat for the trip -- were freed. Plourde died within days of returning to his native Canada.
Blatchley and Sagos, who was arrested separately, were held on charges of conspiring to import marijuana. At the time of their arrests, the island's media estimated the size of the shipment allegedly involved to be worth about $30 million.
Blatchley and Sagos denied the charges.
Sagos is scheduled to be sentenced on his plea today, while Blatchley will be sentenced Friday, the newspaper reported.
Sandi Blatchley said she hoped the matter can be put to rest this week. "Time served," she said. "I want him home."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or email@example.com.