A Canadian truck driver involved in a drug smuggling ring led by a Kirkland man has been convicted in federal court of conspiracy to distribute marijuana for allegedly smuggling thousands of pounds of “BC bud” into the United States.
James Postlethwaite, 60, of North Vancouver, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison because of the quantity of drugs involved, and will be sentenced on March 1, 2013.
The drug ring, which was connected to the Hell’s Angels in Canada, according to federal prosecutors, smuggled tons of marijuana south into the United State and cocaine north into Canada. Jacob Saul Stuart of Kirkland - who posed as a stay-at-home dad while leading the ring -- was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison. For a previous .
A U.S. District Court jury in Seattle deliberated for 90 minutes last week after a three-day trial before convicting Postlethwaite. Prosecutors say others involved in the ring claimed he also smuggled 60 kilograms of cocaine into Canada in a hidden truck compartment.
Twenty-four people on both sides of the border have been charged in the case, with seven of them sentenced to long prison terms. Federal agents began their investigation in 2010 and use court-authorized wiretaps to crack the case.
Below is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington about this latest conviction:
A Canadian truck driver who was identified as a drug smuggler for a criminal group related to the Hells Angels was convicted last week in U.S. District Court in Seattle of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. JAMES POSTLETHWAITE, 60, of North Vancouver, BC, Canada faces a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison when sentenced because of the large quantity of drugs involved in the smuggling scheme.
The criminal organization was smuggling marijuana south into the U.S. and cocaine north into Canada. Others involved in the conspiracy revealed that POSTLETHWAITE transported 60 kilos of cocaine north into Canada in the same hidden compartment. The jury deliberated about 90 minutes following the three day jury trial. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour scheduled sentencing for March 1, 2013. POSTLETHWAITE has been in custody in the U.S. since March 2012 following his arrest in Idaho when he tried to cross into the U.S. from Canada.
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 the 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.
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 month 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 Vince Lombardi and Jeff Backhus.