Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

3 busted near border w/ 58 lbs of coke

Three suspected drug smugglers have been arrested near the U.S.-Canadian border in Pend Oreille County with 58 pounds of cocaine.

Jose Daniel Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 26, and Jose Luis Alfredo Castro-Meji, 25, were booked into the Spokane County Jail early today after being arrested near Metaline Falls late Monday.

Border agents tracked down a third suspect, Jose Galicias, in the woods this afternoon, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Gonzalez-Rodriguez and Castro-Meji appeared in U.S. District Court today and were ordered to remain in jail.

Officials valued the cocaine at $585,860.

As this story explains, cocaine is often smuggled through Eastern Washington in exchange for Ecstasy and marijuana from Canada.

In October 2010, border agents found 310 pounds of Ecstasy worth more than $9.3 million near Curlew. A month before, a Canadian man caught with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border was sentenced to about four years in prison.

In June 2010, a Canadian man arrested in Washington with 80 pounds of cocaine was sentenced to five years in prison.

Then in June 2011, two Canadian men were arrested with 159 pounds of Ecstasy that authorities allege they were trying to smuggle into the United States. Those men are awaiting trial.

Also awaiting trial is an elderly man who lived near the Canadian border in Ferry County and is accused of being a major drug trafficker.

100 lbs of meth, $20k seized at border

About 100 pounds of methamphetamine and $20,000 was found near the Canadian border on Sunday. 

Border patrol agents found the drugs and cash in three backpacks and a duffel bag in a field at the border just west of the Danville port of entry.

The seizures “were the result of effective tactical planning and utilization of advanced surveillance technology,” according to a news release.

“This seizure is yet another example of the good work exercised daily by our highly trained Border Patrol Agents,” said Gloria Chavez, chief of the Spokane Border Patrol Sector. “Our surveillance and tactical coordination capabilities played a pivotal role in the discovery and seizure of the cash and illicit contraband.”

No other details were available. The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating.

The seizure rivals the discovery of 310 pounds of Ecstasy near the border in October 2010.

Canadian cocaine smuggler gets 4 years

A Canadian man caught with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border in February has been sentenced to about four years in prison.

Jonathan Darren “Grundy” Smith, 40, is to serve 51 months for possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

Smith faced 10 years in prison, but his lawyer asked for a reduced sentence because Smith was not to be involved in the distribution of the cocaine once he smuggled it into Canada.

Smith had traveled into the United States to obtain the cocaine when a border patrol agent saw him on the east side of Highway 395 on Feb. 16 “frantically trying to climb the snowy berm at the edge of the roadway” near the Laurier border crossing, according to court documents.

Police found 30 packages of cocaine in two backpacks.

Investigators believes Smith, who played on the Canadian Rugby Junior National team in 1990 and 1994, is the same Grundy described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with an informant in 2009.

Smith's father was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding, Calif., and Smith has traveled around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico. He was living at his brother's condominium in Whistler, B.C., before his arrest.

Prosecutors had objected to a reduced sentencing for a mitigating role, saying that Smith's conduct was neither minimum nor minor.

“The cocaine could not be distributed in Canada without first being exported from the United States into Canada. In keeping with the critical nature of this role, it was not left to chance but was assigned to the an experienced and well compensated smuggler,” according to court documents prepared by prosecutors. “As a result, the Defendant’s conduct would not have been substantially less culpable than that of the average co-participant in the presumed, uncharged conspiracy.”

U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush sentenced Smith to 51 months in prison on Friday. He remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to federal prison.

Past coverage:

March 24: Cocaine suspect already on DEA's radar

Elderly man indicted in drug conspiracy

A 77-year-old man who lived near the Canadian border in Ferry County is accused of being a major drug trafficker.

Alvin O. Shields was allowed to leave the Spokane County Jail on Tuesday, where he was booked Sunday on federal cocaine and marijuana charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences of 5 to 10 years.

Shields will be on electronic home monitoring in Oregon, where he recently relocated, as he awaits trial.

The elderly man and his wife, Beverly Ann Shields, previously lived in Danville, Ferry County, where he is accused of participating in a drug-dealing conspiracy beginning in October 2003.

Shields also lived in Canada for 30 years, federal prosecutors said Tuesday at his bail hearing in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Prosecutors didn't object to Shields being allowed to leave jail pending trial. In addition to home monitoring, he's to submit to random drugs tests and is prohibited from leaving the country or possessing guns and ammunition.

Shields used a hearing aid in court Tuesday; U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno turned up her microphone and spoke quite loudly.

The suspect is accused with unnamed co-conspirators of conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

He's charged with importation of 100 kilos or more of marijuana, two counts of conspiracy to import and export 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and five counts of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified illegal activity for withdrawing large amounts of cash on several occasions.

Forfeiture charges also call for Shields to give up property at Fourth of July Creek Estates in Ferry County.

Another Danville resident, Harold Oscar Strandberg, was indicted last year 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 and is on probation for three years.

Sensing device led to big Ecstasy bust

Two cousins arrested with 159 pounds of Ecstasy near the United States-Canadian border were caught after a remote sensing device alerted authorities to their location.

Christopher Sidney Stocken, 31, and Joshua John Bird, 23, had five backpacks filled with Ecstasy pills June 10 when a border patrol agent used a night vision device to spot them emerging from brush near Stecker Road and U.S. Highway 395

A grand jury indicted the men Tuesday for conspiracy to import Ecstasy, importation of Ecstasy and possession with intent to deliver Ecstasy. Each charge carries a maximum 20 years in prison and three years probation.
The men are being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail.

According toa  newly unsealed affidavit, the suspects told border patrol agents they were at a party in Kelowna, B.C., when two unidentified individuals forced them to take the bags to the border “because they owed someone money for being at the party and if they did not do this they would be killed.” Stocken and Bird said they were to drop the bags off at a predetermined location in the U.S. and return to Canada.

The men stuck with the blackmail story until Stocken told investigators the next day that they were neither coerced nor forced into smuggling the Ecstasy, rather they had agreed to transport the backpacks “to make quick easy money,” according to the affidavit.

Stocken said he had asked Bird to help.

“Stocken indicated he wanted to help out his cousin as he felt responsible for them getting caught,” according to the affidavit.

Cousins arrested w/ Ecstasy to stay jailed

Two men from Canada arrested with 159 pounds of Ecstasy near the United States border will stay in the Spokane County Jail without bail, a judge ruled today.

Christopher S. Stocken, 31, and Joshua J. Bird, 23, who are cousins and members of the Little Black Bear tribe, don't have a stable release plan to ensure their presence in court, U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno said.

Family members traveled from Regina, Saskatchewan, for the hearing in U.S. District Court in Spokane this morning.

Stocken is unemployed but works seasonal odd jobs, his lawyer said. He has a warrant in Canada related to a drunken driving conviction, and Bird also has a drunken driving conviction. But neither man has any criminal history that indicated they're a risk to the community, lawyers said.

Imbrogno noted the seriousness of the charges when granting the U.S. Attorney's Office's motions to detain Stocken and Bird.

The suspects, who have not yet been indicted, face charges of possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy and importation of Ecstasy.

Border patrol agents found the men with five backpacks after they crossed into the country illegally from Canada on Friday. Investigators estimate the Ecstasy tablets to be worth $4.5 million.

2 men arrested w/ 159 lbs. of Ecstasy

Two Canadian men were arrested near the United States border with 159 pounds of Ecstasy, authorities said today.

Christopher S. Stocken, 31, and Joshua J. Bird, 23, appeared in U.S. District Court in Spokane this afternoon to hear their charges.

The suspects were booked into the Spokane County Jail Saturday about 3 p.m. after being arrested in the Colville area, the U.S. Border Patrol confirmed.

They face charges of possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy and importation of Ecstasy. A hearing to determine if they can be released from jail on bail is scheduled for Thursday.

Border patrol agents found the men with five backpacks after they crossed into the country illegally from Canada. Agents arrested Stocken and Bird as they tried to hide in the brush near a trail just south of the border. Investigators estimate the Ecstasy tablets to be worth $4.5 million.

“This seizure is a direct result of the valuable work executed daily by our highly skilled Border Patrol agents,” Spokane Border Patrol Sector Chief Gloria Chavez said in a prepared statement. “Our CBP “state of the art” technology is a critical asset on the Northern border and played a pivotal role in the discovery, interdiction and seizure of this illicit contraband and the suspected perpetrators”.

Ecstasy and marijuana are often smuggled into the United States from Canada in exchange for cocaine. Last October, border agents found 310 pounds of Ecstasy worth more than $9.3 million near Curlew. No arrests have been made in that case.

Canadian cocaine smuggler pleads guilty

A Canadian man suspected of being a major international drug smuggler has pleaded guilty to a federal cocaine charge.

Jonathan Darren “Grundy” Smith, 39, faces 10 years in prison when he's sentenced in August.
Smith was arrested near the border Feb. 16 with two backpacks containing 71 pounds of cocaine.

Investigators believes he's the same Grundy described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with an informant in 2009.

Smith's father was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding, Calif., and Smith has traveled around the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico. He was living at his brother's condominium in Whistler, B.C., before his arrest.

Smith pleaded guilty June 3 to possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. He's at the Spokane County Jail awaiting sentencing.
  

Cocaine suspect already on DEA’s radar

A Canadian man arrested with 71 pounds of cocaine near the international border is believed to be a major drug smuggler who's been on the Drug Enforcement Administration's radar since 2009, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Family members of Jonathan Darren Smith, 39, wrote letters to the court describing Smith as a former professional rugby player known as Grundy.

The DEA suspects Smith is the same “Grundy” described as a major drug smuggler during a briefing with a drug informant in 2009, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Ohms said Wednesday at Smith's bail hearing.

Smith matches the physical description of Grundy, and aspects of his personal life match what the informant told drug investigators, Ohms said. Smith also has a “Grundy” tattoo.

Ohms said the informant described four or five drug smuggling trips conducted by Grundy, including the transport of Ecstasy into the United States by foot, then to Redding, Calif., by automobile, and the transportation of 11 kilos of cocaine from the United States into Canada.

Grundy's father also was convicted of flying a plane full of marijuana into Redding. He served 60 months in prison, Ohms said. Grundy also “has done extensive traveling” including trips to Australia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Mexico.

“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.”

Should Smith be 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, emphasized that Smith has “serious medical problems” that likely won't be address at the Spokane County Jail.

“It would have been nice if he had been married. It would have been nice if he had 15 kids,” but he's still entitled to be considered for pre-trial release, Niesen said, noting 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.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno's decision on whether to hold Smith without bond has not yet been filed.

Hells Angel admits pot smuggling role

A Canadian Hells Angel who fought extradition to Spokane for two years has pleaded guilty to a federal marijuana charge.

Brian Lee Hall faces up to five years in prison when he's sentenced April 6, but his lawyer said he'll ask that his client receive credit for time already served in jail and two years probation.

A co-defendant, David A. Sidwell, 61, already is serving 40 months in federal prison.

According to Hall's plea agreement, the case began when border patrol agents spotted Sidwell near the border in February 2003, hiding under a truck registered in Spokane. A backpack with nearly $185,000 was located about five feet from him. Sidwell's phone showed extensive contact with Hall and Canadian marijuana smuggler Glen Misko.

In September 2003, a confidential informant in Portland said he'd been receiving marijuana that had been transferred into the United States by Misko, then brought to Portland by Sidwell, according to Hall's plea agreement. The informant traveled to Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, and recorded conversations with Sidwell in which Sidwell described losing the cash in what he said was a close call.

Sidwell pleaded guilty in May 2009 to two marijuana charges and one count of attempting bulk cashing smuggling.

Hall, described in court documents as a full-patch Hells Angel, was arrested in British Columbia in 2008 and was in jail and on home-monitoring before consenting to extradition earlier this year. He arrived in Spokane in May and was allowed out of custody on bond pending trial.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana in Spokane last Wednesday and will stay out of custody pending sentencing.

More charges in pot border smuggling

The owner of the Ferry County property where drug agents caught two Canadian pot smugglers last fall faces federal marijuana charges.

Harold Oscar Strandberg, of Danville, is accused of using his property at Fourth of July Creek Road, which is on the U.S.-Canadian border, to import marijuana from Canada, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Strandberg was home when Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrived Nov. 1 on a tip that drug smugglers were at the property.

Strandberg reportedly told them he knew nothing about the case and let the agents search the property, where they eventually found William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, with duffel bags filled with marijuana.

Paterson and Oakes, both of Kelowna B.C, pleaded guilty Jan. 21 in U.S. District Court to three counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. The men, who are in Spokane County Jail, will be sentenced April 22. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of three. No plea deals were made.

There was a pre-trial conference in Strandberg’s case last week. He’s not in jail, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges Jan. 8.

Strandberg was an eight-year member of the Curlew School Board, according to the Omak Chronicle. He did not seek reelection last year, the newspaper reported.

Past coverage:

Pot smugglers: We’re guilty

2 arrested after DEA finds pot near border

Canadian pot smugglers: We’re guilty

Two Canadian men who smuggled marijuana into Ferry County last fall pleaded guilty to three federal drug charges today.

William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, both of Kelowna B.C, pleaded guilty to three counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of three. No plea deals were made.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Spokane drove to Ferry County Nov. 1 after a tip that drug smugglers were near a home at Fourth of July Creek Road in Danville, adjacent to the border, according to court documents.

Paterson and Oakes were arrested trying to smuggle in eight duffel bags filled with marijuana, weighing about 235 pounds. The men will be sentenced April 22.

Past coverage:

Men arrested after DEA  finds pot near border

Pot suspects get new attorneys