FORMER CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION OFFICER SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS IN PRISON FOR IMPORTING "B.C. BUD" INTO THE UNITED STATES
CORY W. WHITFIELD, 35, of Point Roberts, Washington, was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of supervised release today for Importation of Marijuana. In sentencing WHITFIELD U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez noted that WHITFIELD was trying "to use his special status (as a Border Protection Officer) to get through the border with minimal intrusion."
WHITFIELD was arrested on September 13, 2004 as he attempted to cross into the United States at the Port of Entry at Lynden, Washington. WHITFIELD was driving a van with British Columbia license plates. At the time WHITFIELD was working as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer at Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia. When he attempted to cross the border, WHITFIELD presented a Diplomatic Passport and explained his employment saying "I'm one of us." WHITFIELD wore a turtleneck with "INS" on the collar – a designation for Immigration and Naturalization Service. WHITFIELD had worked for INS for about eight years before it was merged into U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
WHITFIELD claimed the purpose of his trip was to deliver an engine to Bellingham. When the inspector looked in the back of the van he found an engine block strapped to the floor of the cargo area. The rear of the van was lined on three sides with cabinets that were held closed by small clips. When the inspector opened one of the rear cabinets, he saw sealed clear plastic bags containing marijuana. WHITFIELD later admitted the van belonged to someone in Canada and that there was "probably" marijuana in the van. WHITFIELD also admitted that, on one previous occasion, he had driven the same van across the border under similar circumstances. Officers recovered more than 535 pounds of marijuana from the van worth an estimated $1 million to $1.6 million.
WHITFIELD'S crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
In asking for a greater prison sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Janet Freeman argued that WHITFIELD'S actions make the battle against the organized drug trade all the more difficult. Marijuana, and other smuggled drugs, are "tangible commodities that fuel a pervasive, organized-crime element in Canada and the United States," she said. "For every police officer who willingly links himself to the chain (of drug smuggling), these criminal enterprises will continue to prosper and will continue to stand unaccountable to either nation," she told the Court.
In imposing the mandatory minimum sentence of five years, Judge Martinez remarked that WHITFIELD was a Gulf War veteran who had honorably served his country in the Navy, and had no previous criminal history. "He has lost a lot" Judge Martinez said, including his career and any future government or law enforcement employment. But Martinez resisted a defense request that he find a reason to sentence WHITFIELD below the five year mandatory minimum sentence, saying he was convinced that WHITFIELD had failed to provide government investigators with all truthful information about this drug smuggling offense.
The case was investigated by the Blaine office of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Seattle Office of the Department of Homeland Security. For further information, please contact Janet Freeman, Assistant United States Attorney, at (206) 553-7729 or Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110.