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Canadian drug smuggling pilot pleads guilty ahead of re-trial

Helicopter pilot nabbed during Operation Frozen Timber faces minimum 5-year prison term

SEATTLE — A Canadian man extradited to the U.S. to face federal charges of conspiracy to import marijuana pleaded guilty Wednesday, pre-empting a re-trial and ending a protracted legal fight to derail the prosecution.

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).

The 2005 operation led authorities to the Okanogan National Forest where undercover special agents observed Rosenau and his co-conspirators smuggling BC Bud marijuana into the United States and cocaine into Canada using helicopters. The first of its kind operation led HSI to develop new techniques to detect and suppress this type of border smuggling.

In his plea agreement, Rosenau admits 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 U.S.

"Rosenau and his co-conspirators thought they had the perfect plan to smuggle drugs into the United States, but obviously they were mistaken," said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "Treacherous terrain, remote locations and the use of aircraft didn't shield these criminals from justice. HSI is relentless in its pursuit of smugglers – where they go, HSI will be on their trail."

As part of his plea agreement, Rosenau will drop his lawsuits that have delayed prosecution since his last proceeding ended in a mistrial. He vigorously fought extradition and had filed lawsuits in Canada against witnesses, law enforcement and prosecutors. He has admitted that those lawsuits were frivolous.

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 (RCMP) found a loaded handgun, night vision goggles, two satellite telephones and a GPS device that contained known landing sites used by marijuana traffickers.

The crime of conspiracy to import marijuana carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison term and a maximum sentence of up to 40 years. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he faces between five and 10 years in prison.

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 BC 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 IBETs 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 is prosecuting the case.