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CANADIAN TRUCKER SENTENCED TO 6+ YEARS IN PRISON FOR CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE MARIJUANA
Big Rig Owner had $1.2 Million in BC Bud Stashed in Hidden Compartment Under Trailer Floor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 11, 2008

COREY WIRSZ, 30, of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 78 months in prison, four years of supervised release and a $12,500 fine for Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana. WIRSZ was convicted April 15, 2008, following a week-long trial. The jury deliberated for a day and a half before finding WIRSZ guilty in connection with the attempt to smuggle more than 350 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated $1.2 million across the border at Blaine, Washington on August 2, 2007. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard Jones said he concluded WIRSZ was deeply involved in drug smuggling and said, “it is abundantly clear he was lying on the witness stand.”

During the trial the key question for the jury was whether WIRSZ knew the marijuana was in the tractor trailer rig. Prosecutors presented key evidence showing how the trailer had been heavily modified after WIRSZ purchased it to install an intricate secret compartment in the floor of the trailer. Prosecutors showed evidence that the secret compartment consisted of a false floor with hydraulic scissor jacks that lifted the flooring the entire length of the 53 foot trailer providing access to a compartment capable of carrying over 190 kilograms of marijuana. X-ray scans from the border revealed the addition of the “scissor lifts” under the floor and led to the discovery of the marijuana. Phone records revealed that WIRSZ had been on the phone with an individual identified on WIRSZ's cellular phone as “Tony Dispatch” some fifty times on the day he tried to get across the border with marijuana in the hidden compartment. Although Defendant testified that “Tony” was a “dispatcher he met at a bar,” he admitted that he had not spoken to “Tony” since his arrest, and that efforts to locate this mysterious “dispatcher” have been unsuccessful. At trial, WIRSZ’ attorney claimed WIRSZ had intended to purchase a different trailer, but the company had mistakenly delivered the modified trailer to him full of marijuana. The defense claimed that, unknown to WIRSZ, a drug trafficking organization had left the marijuana in the rig and, over the five months WIRSZ owned the trailer, never attempted to retrieve the drugs. Prosecutors countered with records showing that after WIRSZ paid $13,000 in cash for the trailer, he did not use it for trucking for months, allowing it to sit empty. Prosecutors told the jury it was during this time, when the trailer was not out earning any money for WIRSZ’ trucking business, that he had it outfitted with the secret compartment. Jurors rejected the defense case, finding WIRSZ was a knowing member of the criminal conspiracy.

In asking for a sentence at the top of the guidelines range, prosecutors pointed to WIRSZ’ repeated perjury on the witness stand as well as his deep involvement in drug smuggling. In their sentencing memo prosecutors wrote, “after Defendant’s arrest, several other tractor-trailer combinations were stopped at the United States-Canada border with secret compartments identical to Defendant’s secret compartment. One of these tractor-trailer combinations was discovered in North Dakota loaded with 552 pounds of marijuana destined for Chicago. These additional discoveries demonstrate that Defendant was part of a larger organization with substantial resources, and that this organization is involved in the distribution of illegal drugs throughout the United States.” Prosecutors believe WIRSZ played a significant role in this drug trafficking organization.

The case was investigated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kate Crisham and Norman Barbosa.

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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