before-after

Ian MacDonald in 1980 and at the time of his arrest in 2011. ((U.S. Marshalls Service))

An elderly fugitive has been arrested in the U.S. for fleeing a warrant in a Manitoba drug-trafficking case dating back more than 30 years.

'Yeah, you're right — you got me.'— Ian MacDonald to arresting officers

Former Winnipegger Ian Jackson MacDonald, 71, was tracked to his central Florida home Tuesday where he surrendered peaceably, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said.

"I was told that he just let out a big sigh and said, 'Yeah, you're right — you got me,'" senior Insp. Barry Golden told CBC News.

In 1980, MacDonald — known as "Big Mac" — was arrested in Florida on a warrant issued by Manitoba police, who suspected he had helped smuggle a large amount of marijuana into the province.

While in custody in June of that year, he faked a heart attack and was taken to hospital, where he escaped by conning a guard into removing his leg shackles, Golden said.

About two years ago,  Golden said, an officer was assigned to the file and found information in it that led investigators to a home in Pennsylvania, where MacDonald and his wife had once lived under an assumed name.

While speaking with people in the area, officers learned the couple had moved to a town in central Florida, where he was arrested on Tuesday, Golden said.

Over the years he was on the lam, Golden said, MacDonald earned  $1,900 a month tending a team of horses sponsored by the Heinz Corp. Prior to it being disbanded in 2006, "The Heinz Hitch" was a prominent horse-and-buggy display at festivals and state fairs across the U.S.

MacDonald crossed the border at least three times to bring the horses to the Calgary Stampede over the years, Golden said.

MacDonald now faces U.S. charges stemming from the escape, Golden said. He's being held in custody.

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh