News and Press Releases

Trucker Had More than 250 Pounds of Cocaine Hidden in Fuel Tanks

January 18, 2007

STEVE ATILLA CZINEGE, 40, of Surrey, British Columbia, was convicted today in U.S. District Court in Seattle of Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Distribute. The jury returned the verdict following a day long trial. Because of the large amount of cocaine, CZINEGE faces a mandatory minimum ten years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on May 7, 2007.

According to records filed in the case, on February 27, 2006, CZINEGE was attempting to cross into Canada from the United States at the Lynden Port of Entry. CZINEGE’s tractor trailer rig was empty. The trucker told Customs and Border Protection officers that he was going to Canada to “load up.” While CZINEGE was being interviewed, an officer noticed a discrepancy in the fuel tanks. The officer noticed an unusual seam in one fuel tank. Both tanks had been altered, and inside investigators found three duffel bags with 115 kg of cocaine (more than 250 lbs). The cocaine has an estimated wholesale value of $1.8 million.

CZINEGE claimed as a defense that he was forced to run the load of drugs after he had been involved in a marijuana smuggling attempt that ended with the seizure of a truck loaded with 300 pounds of marijuana. CZINEGE claimed he had been threatened with harm if he did not run the drugs. The jury rejected that defense and found CZINEGE guilty after a few hours of deliberation.

The case was investigated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney’s Jill Otake and Patricia Lally.

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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