CANADIAN CONVICTED IN SCHEME TO SMUGGLE ECSTASY IN ALTERED GAS TANK OF SUV
Defendant Faces Up to Twenty Years in Prison For Attempt to Smuggle $4.5 Million of Ecstasy
JAMES LEYSTRA, 42, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was convicted in U.S. District Court in Seattle today of Conspiracy to Import Ecstasy, Unlawful Importation of Ecstasy, and Possession of Ecstasy with Intent to Distribute. The jury deliberated about five hours following a week long trial. LEYSTRA was convicted of all charges brought by the government. He was immediately taken into custody. LEYSTRA faces up to twenty years when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on May 2, 2008.
According to evidence and testimony at trial, LEYSTRA was stopped at the border on November 29, 2006 driving his 1995 Chevrolet Suburban. Border officers sent LEYSTRA for secondary inspection, where an alert officer noticed an abnormality related to the Suburban’s gas tank. Officers had to move fuses, and push certain buttons on the key fob to get a concealed section of the gas tank to drop down from under the vehicle. Inside they found more than 70 kilos of ecstasy worth an estimated $4.5 million. It is one of the largest seizures of ecstasy recorded at the Northern Border.
At trial LEYSTRA testified that he was an “unknowing mule,” driving across the border as part of his car import business. Records showed that LEYSTRA had crossed the border ten times since July 2006, with the stated purpose of driving to California to purchase cars. With the modified gas tank the Suburban could only carry twelve and a half gallons of gas. Gas receipts entered into evidence showed that LEYSTRA made frequent stops for gas, never filling the Suburban’s tank with more than twelve and a half gallons. Prosecutors argued that it was unreasonable for LEYSTRA to claim he did not know about the modified gas tank, when he was having to stop so frequently to fill up.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney’s Karyn Johnson and Susan Loitz.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.