A Canadian man arrested near the international border – allegedly toting 71 pounds of cocaine – may be a major drug smuggler who’s been on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s radar since 2009.
Letters from family members of Jonathan Darren Smith, 39, may have helped authorities make the link.
In 2009, federal drug agents learned of a drug smuggler known only as “Grundy” who was responsible for major cocaine and Ecstasy distributions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Ohms said this week.
After Smith was arrested in February, his family wrote letters to U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno asking her to let Smith leave jail before trial. The letters described Smith as a former professional rugby player known as Grundy.
Smith matches Grundy’s physical description, and aspects of his personal life match what an informant told drug investigators, Ohms said. Smith also has a “Grundy” tattoo.
Though unemployed, Smith “has done extensive traveling,” including trips to Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico, Ohms said.
“The inference is that this defendant is, in fact, occupied as a smuggler,” Ohms said. “That’s what he does. This is not an isolated incident.”
Smith, who was convicted in Canada of failing to declare $165,000 in cash at the border in 2006, is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail after Imbrogno rejected his release request.
Ohms said the informant described four or five drug-smuggling trips conducted by Grundy, including the transport of Ecstasy into the U.S. by foot and then to Redding, Calif., by automobile, and the transportation of 11 kilos of cocaine from the U.S. into Canada.
Ohms said Smith likely works for a major drug-trafficking organization.
If Smith is allowed to return to Canada, “he’s going to be subject to answering to that organization, and perhaps that organization won’t want him to return. Because why would they? He might cooperate,” Ohms said.
Smith’s lawyer, Jeff Niesen, said Smith has “serious medical problems” that probably wouldn’t be addressed at the Spokane County Jail.
He’s entitled to be considered for pre-trial release, Niesen said, adding that Smith has never been accused of violence.
Smith, who played on the Canadian Rugby Junior National team in 1990 and 1994, has been at the Spokane County Jail since his arrest Feb. 16, when a border patrol agent allegedly saw him trying to climb a snow berm off Highway 395 near the Laurier, Wash., border crossing with two backpacks, containing cocaine.
Smith worked construction for 16 years before suffering a stroke in March 2006, according to documents prepared by Niesen. His criminal history includes the conviction in Canada for failing to declare $165,000 in U.S. currency while entering the country. A drunken driving charge against him is pending in Canada.
Smith was born and raised in Kelowna, where his father lives, but lived at a home owned by his brother in Whistler, B.C., prior to his arrest.
Smith’s family said in letters that he is in “very poor health” after many concussions and a stroke five years ago that left him disabled on the left side of his body.
“His devotion to the togetherness of our family and his commitment to creating meaningful connections with our family is incredible,” a cousin wrote.
Wrote Smith’s uncle: “If we had more people like Darren then there would be less strife in the world and more understanding.”