News and Press Releases

Defendant Arrested for 2006 Smuggle after Boat Breaks Down During 2009 Smuggling Activity

September 25, 2009

ROBERT JAMES PETERSON, 42, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Import Marijuana. PETERSON was arrested May 22, 2009, after his boat broke down in the Strait of Juan De Fuca following a smuggling episode. Agents found that he had an arrest warrant for a previous smuggling incident in 2006. PETERSON pleaded guilty June 26, 2009, in connection with the indictment for the smuggling episode in 2006, when he and two other men imported more than 450 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. by boat. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said that 30 months was appropriate so that other Canadian drug smugglers know, “if you send drugs to the United States, you will serve time in prison in the United States.”

According to records filed in the 2006 case, PETERSON originally came to the attention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Victoria, BC in connection with his smuggling activities. Early in the morning of June 3, 2006, RCMP officers watched as PETERSON and another man sailed their 22 foot boat out of Sydney, on Vancouver Island. The RCMP alerted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which monitored the boat as it crossed into the U.S. and landed at a beach on San Juan Island. There PETERSON and one of his co-defendants unloaded eleven nylon hockey bags – bags later found to contain marijuana. The bags were picked up by Canadian Marc Georg driving a white van. The van was later stopped and the marijuana was seized. PETERSON and his co-defendant were videotaped by law enforcement returning to the Sydney marina in the boat. In October 2006, Marc Georg was sentenced to 15 months in prison. PETERSON’s two co-defendants in the indictment for the 2006 incident, Canadians Brenton Lloyd Craig and Brian Mann, remain fugitives in Canada. The U.S. is seeking their extradition.

In May 2009, PETERSON was arrested after he and two associates smuggled another load of marijuana into the U.S. by boat. In this case there were three large hockey bags of marijuana which were ultimately transferred into a car with Texas license plates. The drugs were later seized in Texas. PETERSON has been detained at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac since his arrest pending sentencing.

In asking for a slightly higher sentence for PETERSON, Assistant United States Attorney Doug Whalley noted that PETERSON knew his co-conspirator Georg had been arrested in 2006. “The defendant, rather than be deterred, attempted to smuggle additional marijuana into the United States in 2009,” Mr. Whalley wrote in his sentencing memo. “In addition, his two original co-defendants remain in Canada . . . A sentence of 37 months for Mr. Peterson would discourage him and his associates in Canada from continuing to violate the border integrity of the United States,” Mr. Whalley wrote to the court.

“Drug smuggling is a serious crime that is motivated by greed and disregard for the law,” said Brad Bench, acting special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations. “ICE will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to bring individuals who violate drug trafficking laws to justice.”

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). 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, Matt Thomas, and Patricia Lally.

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

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