A 78-year-old man who allowed drug traffickers to use his property just south of the Canadian border in Ferry County has pleaded guilty.
Alvin Oliver Shields had 700 pounds of marijuana on his property when federal agents searched it in 2009. Now he faces 30 to 42 months in prison under a plea agreement approved this week in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He's to be sentenced on Aug. 9.
Federal agents began investigating Shields in 2003 after a Border Patrol agent found four duffel bags with 140 pounds of marijuana after four people ran from Fourth of July Creek Road, west of Danville, into Canada.
The agent then saw Shields "driving slowly in a van with the rear cargo doors propped open," according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.
Then in 2008, a multi-agency investigation determined Shields was letting marijuana traffickers in Canada transport the pot to his property, where it was then taken to Spokane and stored for distribution by U.S. drug traffickers, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Along with 700 pounds of pot, agents found evidence of hidden cash transactions and money laundering when they searched Shields' property in May 2009. They also learned Shields hadn't filed federal income tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Shields, who prosecutors said lived in Canada for 30 years, has since moved to Lebanon, Ore.
He pleaded guilty Tuesday in Spokane to money laundering, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (dating back to 2003) and three counts of failure to file income tax returns. He's out jail awaiting sentencing.
“Investigations involving the integrity of the United States borders and federal income tax violators are vigorously pursued in this District," according to a prepared statement by Michael Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. "Alvin Oliver Shields’ guilty pleas are the result of effective Federal, state, local and Canadian law enforcement partnerships.”
Another Danville resident, Harold Oscar Strandberg, was indicted in 2010 after two Canadian pot smugglers, William Richard Paterson and Jahrum David Oakes, were arrested with large amounts of marijuana at Strandberg's Fourth of July Creek Road property.
Strandberg pleaded guilty in March 2011 and is on probation for three years.