An international drug ring that led to a young man’s suicide in the Spokane County Jail was headed by four Canadian men, authorities allege, one of whom offered to cooperate if investigators let him continue his operation for a decade.
That claim from federal agents, included in recently filed indictments in U.S. District Court in Seattle, led Canadian authorities to warn the would-be informant last month that gangsters could be conspiring to kill him.
Colin Hugh Martin, of Malakwa, B.C., is accused of helping run a multimillion-dollar international smuggling operation that used helicopters to distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy, landing in remote sites in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
He was indicted late last month on federal drug conspiracy charges with three other Canadian men: Sean William Doak, James Gregory Cameron and Adam Christian J. Serrano.
The indictment gives new details about a major smuggling operation that stretched from Mexico to Canada and led to sealed court filings and closed court hearings in Washington state as defendants said they feared for their lives if word of their possible cooperation became public.
The investigation became known among federal agents as Operation BladeRunner.
Reaction in Canada to details in the new indictment about Martin’s alleged offer to turn in his associates underscored those fears.
Martin called the DEA in September and offered to “provide ongoing information regarding drug trafficking into the United States,” the indictment says.
Over the next two months, the document alleges, Martin communicated with an unspecified individual in the United States and claimed to have “the ability to control 70 percent of the work that comes out of B.C. and what comes into B.C.”
He offered to identify conspiracies and aid in drug busts if he would be allowed to continue his drug business for 10 years, according to the indictment.
Those allegations led Canadian authorities on Dec. 28 to warn Martin about the possibility of retaliation.
“His name was mentioned in a way we felt would compromise his safety,” said Sgt. Rob Vermeulen of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle, said the office would never identify an informant, which she said Martin is not.
Federal prosecutors don’t accept offers like the one from Martin anyway, she said. “Categorically, we do not allow informants to break the law or give them some kind of free pass to break the law,” she said.
Martin owned the helicopter flown by Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown when he was arrested in the Colville National Forest, accused of transporting more than 400 pounds of marijuana.
The marijuana, authorities say, was meant to be traded for cocaine transported by two men arrested in Utah days earlier, Leonard J. Ferris and Ross N. Legge, who had a storage unit in Spokane Valley. Ferris was sentenced to six years in federal prison last month. Legge is fighting charges in Utah.
Lindsay-Brown, 24, committed suicide in Spokane County Jail on Feb. 27, 2009. Martin told authorities that Lindsay-Brown had stolen the helicopter.
But according to the new indictment, after Lindsay-Brown was arrested, Doak allegedly sent a BlackBerry message to a co-conspirator saying Martin “will be lucky if he is not dead” and saying he’ll likely have to pay for the lost load, estimated to be worth $4 million to $5 million.
Martin, Doak, Cameron and Serrano are accused of orchestrating another drug deal a week later in which another young man flew a helicopter with marijuana into the United States, this time landing near Priest Lake, Idaho. Jeremy Snow, of Kelowna, B.C., was sentenced in October to 46 months in prison.
Serrano allegedly sent BlackBerry messages to co-conspirators days before Snow’s flight looking for someone to pick up cocaine in Los Angeles. DEA agents say he’s boasted of smuggling up to 300 kilograms of cocaine per week from the United States to Canada at $14,000 per kilogram.
According to the new indictment, Snow’s helicopter was owned by a friend of Joseph Patrick Curry, a reputed Canadian gangster and associate of Clay Roueche.
Curry, who’s accused of loading the helicopter with drugs, is wanted in U.S. District Court in Spokane after posting bail on drug charges in 2007 and never returning to court, according to court documents. Roueche, the founder of the Vancouver, B.C.-based gang United Nations, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last month on drug conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
A woman sentenced on drug charges related to the case last year, Lucretia James, cited a murder kit found at Roueche’s home – including guns, handcuffs and night-vision goggles – when asking for details of her plea deal to be kept secret.