Utah Highway Patrol and DEA Assist in Shutting Down Cross Border Helicopter Drug Smuggling Ring
MAR 24 -- (Salt Lake City) – Jeffrey D. Sweetin, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Rocky Mountain Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today a coordinated effort between the Utah Department of Public Safety, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and DEA, which resulted in nine arrests and the seizure of 750 pounds of marijuana, over 80 kilograms of cocaine, 6 weapons and 2 helicopters. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Blade Runner”, because of the use of helicopters to smuggle loads of drugs across the U.S/Canadian border.
SAC Sweetin stated, “The excellent relationship DEA shares with the Utah Highway Patrol allowed this investigation to continue, which resulted in the dismantlement of an international drug trafficking organization operating along the US/Canadian border.”
On February 21, 2009, a traffic stop conducted by the Utah Highway Patrol near Brigham City, Utah, resulted in the seizure of 83 kilograms of cocaine. Occupants of the vehicle, Ross Legge, 53, of Alberta, BC, and Leonard Ferris, 50, of Las Vegas, Nevada, were arrested. Agents and Task Force Officers from the DEA Salt Lake City Metro Narcotics Task Force were contacted and determined one of the subjects had been identified by law enforcement as part of an ecstasy smuggling ring prosecuted last year in the Western District of Washington. Agents determined the seized cocaine was destined for a location in eastern Washington and, subsequently, coordinated with DEA in Spokane and Seattle to further the investigation. Agents learned that the cocaine was to be delivered to a remote site on the U.S./Canadian Border where it was to be loaded onto a helicopter in exchange for a load of B.C Bud marijuana. A few days later, Samuel Lindsey-Brown, 24, of Revelstoke, BC, was arrested after he landed a helicopter in Ione, Washington, and attempted to off-load 426 pounds of marijuana. Lindsey-Brown was arrested and committed suicide on February 27, 2009, at the Spokane County Jail.
On March 5, 2009, the group attempted another exchange of drugs via helicopter, and upon landing in North Idaho, Jeremy Snow, 29, of Kelowna, B.C was arrested. The helicopter contained 174 pounds of B.C Bud marijuana.
Through information sharing between the U.S and Canada, the RCMP located the site from where the helicopter took off in B.C. The RCMP arrested two men, ages 48 and 20, from Chilliwack, B.C. and seized 150 pounds of marijuana and approximately 40,000 ecstasy pills. Additional search warrants were served in Nelson, Salmon Arm, and Malakwa, B.C. Officers seized six guns and arrested a 37 year-old resident of Malakwa, a 35 year-old resident of Salmon Arm, and a 35 year-old man from Chilliwack.
Individual defendants have been charged in districts where they were arrested, but the cases will likely be consolidated in the Western District of Washington where information about the smuggling ring originated and where, within the past year, two other co-conspirators have been prosecuted for the importation of 200,000 MDMA pills and possession of 72 kilograms of cocaine.
his case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA Salt Lake City Metro Narcotics Task Force, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S Customs and Border Protection, U.S Border Patrol, U.S Forest Service, Utah Highway Patrol, Washington State Patrol, Spokane County Sheriff’s Department and the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Department.