The U.S. government has dropped escape charges against a Winnipeg man who fled from a Manitoba drug warrant by faking a heart attack and going on the lam for more than 30 years.
However Ian Jack MacDonald, 71, remains behind bars in a Florida jail and is facing extradition back to Canada, according to court records obtained by CBC News.
U.S. Judge Barry Garber dismissed the escape charges against MacDonald at the request of prosecutors on March 1 but ordered him held in custody as extradition proceedings get underway.
The process of extraditing MacDonald back to Canada could take some time, and it's not known if he will contest being brought back.
His West Palm Beach-based lawyer, Marc Shiner, did not immediately return a request for comment but Manitoba officials said MacDonald still faces charges of importing marijuana into Canada.
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 and escaped by conning a guard into removing his leg shackles, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
He was arrested in January this year after an investigator was assigned to track MacDonald and found him living in a central Florida home.
"You got me," MacDonald was quoted by a Marshals Service spokesman as saying.
According to the Marshals Service, MacDonald earned $1,900 a month tending a team of horses sponsored by the Heinz Corp. during his time on the run. 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.