Henry Rosenau, 61, of Armstrong, British Columbia, was indicted in 2006 following a cross-border investigation dubbed "Operation Frozen Timber" led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Rosenau's sentence comes following his July guilty plea, which pre-empted a re-trial and ended a protracted legal battle to derail the U.S. prosecution that included extradition challenges and frivolous lawsuits against witnesses, prosecutors and law enforcement.
"Operation Frozen Timber" led authorities to the Okanogan National Forest where undercover HSI special agents observed Rosenau and his co-conspirators smuggling B.C. Bud marijuana into the United States and cocaine into Canada using helicopters. The first of its kind investigation led HSI to develop new techniques to detect and suppress this type of border smuggling.
"The remote forest areas that concealed Rosenau's and his co-conspirators' smuggling operation also provided law enforcement with the perfect platform to observe their criminal activity," said Brad Bench special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "Rosenau was the air courier service to several transnational criminal organizations. While he was busy turning drug smuggling by helicopter into a growth industry, HSI and its border enforcement partners were building the case that dismantled his criminal enterprise and brought him to justice."
In his plea agreement, Rosenau admitted that, between 2000 and 2005, he flew dozens of loads of marijuana into forested areas in western and eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana. He also smuggled Canadians across the border into the U.S. to work as drug mules to transport their illicit cargo across the United States. Investigators say he ran his smuggling operation from his home-based heliport, landing as many as five helicopters in the front yard of his remote property in British Columbia.
Rosenau was first contacted by Canadian law enforcement in 2005 as he returned to Canada after delivering a load. In the helicopter's cockpit, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found a loaded handgun, night vision goggles, two satellite telephones and a GPS device that contained known landing sites used by marijuana traffickers.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of more than 15 years. They portrayed Rosenau as a shrewd man who flouted the law and gamed the system for his personal benefit saying: "[Rosenau] skirts the law when he believes doing so will benefit him, who prevaricates when asked what he did and why, and who believes dealing with governments (from pilot and aircraft regulations to police investigations to court matters) is some sort of a game. [...] With some shrewdness, the defendant dealt well in the world of drug smugglers. He flew for some of the bigger and well-known drug traffickers..."
More than 40 defendants were indicted in connection with Operation Frozen Timber. During the course of the operation, U.S. and Canadian enforcement teams intercepted more than 17 drug loads, including more than 5,000 pounds of B.C. Bud and one shipment in February 2005 involving five suitcases packed with 169 kilograms of cocaine.
Operation Frozen Timber was conducted under the auspices of the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET), a multi-agency law enforcement team comprised of representatives from Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies. Members of the IBET work together with local, state and provincial enforcement agencies to target cross-border criminal activity, including investigations involving national security and organized crime. Additional assistance was provided by U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington prosecuted the case.
Editor's Note: ICE video available at http://www.dvidshub.net/video/144923/operation-frozen-timber