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The Cornbread Mafia was an organized crime syndicate based in Marion County, Kentucky, first made public in June, 1989, when federal prosecutors revealed that 70 men, mostly from Marion County but also two adjacent counties, Nelson and Washington, were arrested for organizing a marijuana (called "cornbread" by syndicate members) trafficking ring that stretched across the midwest.
Origin of the name
The name was first used by law enforcement when they realized the scope of the organization. The name was part of an effort to invoke the RICO statute, adding time to everyone's sentence and allowing the government to seize the group's assets.
Beginning with "The Minnesota 17", 70 Kentuckians were accused of growing 182 tons of "cornbread" on 29 farms in 10 states, including Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, which federal prosecutors considered to be the "largest domestic cornbread syndicate in American history."
For much of the 80s, the Cornbread Mafia was reported upon by photojournalist Steve Lowery of The Lebanon Enterprise, many of whose photographs are in the book.
By 2007, the term "cornbread mafia" had come to mean general Southern-style corruption. There is also a song by Molly Hatchet called Cornbread Mafia and a now-defunct band that called itself Cornbread Mafia.
The most notable member of the Cornbread Mafia was and is Johnny Boone, he was the ringleader of the Minnesota-based "cornbread" ring, Boone was busted in October, 1987, for which he served about 15 years in prison. In June 2008, police discovered Boone growing 2,421 "cornbread" seedlings on his farm outside of Springfield, Kentucky in Washington County. If arrested, Boone would likely serve life in prison without parole because the bust would be his third federal strike under the Three Strikes Law. Consequently, Boone became a fugitive and the subject of a segment of America's Most Wanted. Johnny Boone has two Facebook fan pages with greater than 2,500 supporters each. There has also been a song written saluting Johnny Boone.
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