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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Canadian Drug Trafficker Sentenced to Seven Years In Prison

Vancouver BC Resident Smuggled MDMA South, Cocaine North Over U.S.-Canada Border

            A 52-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to seven years in prison and four years of supervised release in connection with a scheme to smuggle large quantities of MDMA into the U.S., and Cocaine into Canada, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  PHILIP COTE was arrested in August 2014, and in February 2015 pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute MDMA and Cocaine.  COTE and a co-conspirator traveled in two cars in tandem across the border 86 times since 2006 as part of their drug trafficking activities.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that COTE had “seen people’s lives ruined by drugs,” and yet he transported drugs to make money.

            “Enforcement of the federal drug laws at the U.S.-Canada border is a priority for federal law enforcement.  Like this defendant, those transporting large loads of dangerous drugs are responsible for enlarging the circle of drug addiction in our communities and will be held to account,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “I commend Homeland Security Investigations for their diligent work on this case.”

            According to records filed in the case, COTE and a co-conspirator made frequent drug runs across the border with one person acting as a lookout in one vehicle and the other carrying drugs in a secret compartment in their vehicle.  On July 25, 2014 COTE traveled from British Columbia to Blaine, Washington.  He supplied his contact in Blaine with 20 kilos of MDMA or ecstasy hidden in the trunk of a car.  COTE met with the contact, believing the contact would deliver the drugs to Southern California.  COTE instructed the contact to pick up a 32 kilo load of cocaine and hide it in the walls of an SUV for the return trip.  In fact the person COTE met was working with agents from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  On August 20, an undercover officer picked up the cocaine load in Southern California.  On August 25, 2014 when COTE went to pick up the load in Blaine, he was arrested.  COTE has been at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac since his arrest.

            “Cote thought his clean record and trusted traveler program membership would allow him to escape scrutiny at the border,” said Brad Bench, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle.  “He was mistaken.  It was HSI’s coordinated effort to detect border security violators that exposed Cote and his drug trafficking operation.”

The street value of the cocaine that COTE sought to transport to Canada on just this one trip was $1.5 million.

            The case was investigated by the Blaine Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Blaine).  The ICE Homeland Security Investigations-led BEST is composed of full-time members from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Offices of Air and Marine, Field Operations and Border Patrol; the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Canada Border Services Agency; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  BEST Blaine combats transnational criminal organizations by identifying, investigating and eliminating vulnerabilities along one of the most diverse geographic areas along the northern border.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Vaughan. 

Drug Trafficking
Updated June 2, 2015