News and Press Releases

Federal Judge Tells Tribal Members to Take Message Back to Canada about Harsh Penalties

June 16, 2006

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez today sentenced five Canadian First Nation members to six months in prison and two years of probation for their roles in a marijuana smuggling scheme. On October 30, 2005, the five were arrested at the U.S./Canada border crossing at Sumas, riding in vans that each carried about 40 kilograms of marijuana. By traveling in a large group with all the participants Canadian First Nation members, with a treaty right to unrestricted travel between the U.S. and Canada, they hoped to disguise the fact they were transporting marijuana across the border.

In rejecting a defense request for a sentence of probation, Judge Martinez said he wants to send a message to those who might become “mules” for drug organizations. “I want every other First Nation member in Canada, and I want every other Canadian, to understand that the sentencing laws of the United States are very, very harsh,” Judge Martinez said. “I do not want to create another class of victims that can be victimized repeatedly by those who would profit most from these types of offenses.”

The defendants are members of various tribes. ABRAHAM CHARLES SHEENA, 54 , of Merrit, BC, is a member of the Upper Nicola Band. FAYVE QUILT, 32, of Hanceville, BC, is a member of the Stone Band. DIDE QUILT, 23, of Hanceville, BC, is a member of the Stone Band. JOANNE ROSETTE, 27, of Alkali Lake, BC, is a member of the Shuswap Band. RANGER OPPENHEIM, 38, of Merritt, BC, is a member of the Shakan Band. Each was sentenced to six months in prison and two years of supervised release. The sentences for three of the defendants were above the period of incarceration suggested by prosecutors.

When Judge Martinez sentenced one of the van drivers, RANGER OPPENHEIM, he told him, “Tell your young people how they can get themselves caught so easily in something they have no idea what the consequences will be.”

The case was investigated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas B. Whalley and Lisca Borichewski.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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