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A Canadian truck driver who was identified as a drug smuggler for a criminal group related to the Hells Angels was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to 12 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. JAMES POSTLETHWAITE, 60, of North Vancouver, BC, Canada was convicted following a three day trial in November 2012. POSTELTHWAITE was a transporter in a criminal organization that was smuggling marijuana south into the U.S. and cocaine north into Canada. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said POSTLETHWAITE “understood the size and scope of the conspiracy,” and was responsible for smuggling vast quantities of marijuana into the United States, as well as smuggling cocaine into Canada. “Cocaine has had a devastating impact on the streets of Vancouver,” and defendant’s actions contributed directly to that problem, Judge Coughenour said.
The investigation into this international drug trafficking ring began in May 2010. Using court authorized wire taps, investigators with DEA and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) determined the drug ring was transporting and distributing 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana and 100 to 200 kilos of cocaine every month. The marijuana was smuggled into the U.S. from Canada and distributed across the country to California, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey, among other locations. Proceeds from the marijuana distribution were used to purchase cocaine in Southern California. The cocaine was transported to British Columbia for distribution.
After identifying the Seattle area warehouse that served as the hub for the marijuana distribution, investigators were able to identify POSTLETHWAITE’s semi-truck that delivered to the warehouse. After search warrants were served on the warehouse in April 2011, agents learned more about a hidden compartment in POSTLETHWAITE’s semi that allowed him to transport as many as 95 loads of drugs across the border. Each load was hundreds of pounds of BC Bud – the hidden compartment could hold more than 600 pounds. POSTLETHWAITE was indicted for his role in the conspiracy and was arrested March 9, 2012 as he tried to drive a different truck into the U.S. from Canada at the Eastport, Idaho, Port of Entry. The truck with the hidden compartment was later located trying to enter the U.S. with a different driver. The hidden compartment had a very elaborate access system using a separate battery to access a void in the floor of the trailer. Testimony in the trial revealed that the marijuana belonged to the Hells Angels organization in BC, Canada.
POSTLETHWAITE has been in custody in the U.S. since March 2012. Two dozen people in the U.S. and Canada have been charged in the case. Seven have already been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Other defendants already sentenced in the case include: Jacob Saul Stuart, the U.S. based leader of the ring, was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison; Michael Murphy, a pilot who transported drugs, 12 years in prison; Jacob Burdick, who stored and organized transportation of the drugs, 12 years in prison; John Washington, a drug distributor for the group, 11 years in prison; Glen Stewart, 52, a Custer, Washington based drug courier, 12 years in prison; Mario Joseph Fenianos, a Canadian who obtained and smuggled cocaine for the ring, 13 years in prison, and Michael William Dubois, another Canadian working on the cocaine side of the smuggling was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized more than $2 million and 136 kilograms of cocaine. On April 28, 2011, the day search warrants were executed, law enforcement seized more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from locations across the country.
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 investigated by DEA Offices – Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Fresno, Los Angeles and New Jersey; ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations - Seattle and Sacramento; Customs and Border Protection – Office of Air & Marine; King County Sheriff’s Department; Seattle Police Department; Washington State Patrol; Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force; and the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (California).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Backhus and Vince Lombardi.