NOV 20 (SEATTLE) – 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 due to 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 group began in May 2010. Using court authorized wire taps, investigators with DEA and Homeland Security Investigations determined the organization 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 organization, 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 organization, 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).