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Women Sent To Prison For Opium Smuggling

Two Northern California women have been sentenced to prison for smuggling some $1 million worth of opium from Bangkok, Thailand, to Idaho and Reno, Nev., in wooden parrots.

Nai Chan Saechao, 34, and Nai Poo Saechao, 40, both of North Highlands, Calif., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill on Monday after being convicted on opium smuggling charges last November.

Nai Chan Saechao, who Winmill said committed perjury at her trial, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Nai Poo Saechao was sentenced to five years in prison based on her lesser role in the conspiracy and her history of depression, U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson said.

Both women originally were charged with one count of conspiracy to import opium from Thailand and one count of conspiracy to distribute opium. A federal jury convicted Nai Chan Saechao on both counts. It convicted Nai Poo Saechao of conspiracy to import opium but acquitted her on the distribution conspiracy count.

The women and a third person, Fouloon Saephan, were arrested on March 18, 1996, after Fouloon Saephan accepted delivery of 12 large DHL packages that had originated in Bangkok.

The shipping invoice showed the boxes contained more than 2,100 wooden handicraft items such as birds, butterflies and fish. That included 310 brightly painted wooden parrots with cavities that were filled with 33 pounds of opium, Richardson said.

The drugs were seized as a motel near the Boise airport in what Richardson said was believed to be the largest seizure of opium in Idaho history. She said another 10 pounds of opium connected to the women was seized in Reno in January 1996.

Richardson said opium commonly sells for $25,000 a pound or $90 a gram.

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