SEATTLE - A woman who smuggled thousands of Benzylpiperazine (BZP) tablets into the United States from Canada was sentenced today to five years in federal prison and two years of supervised release, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Krysta Edwards, 23, of North Vancouver, British Columbia, was arrested in June 2009 at a storage facility in Bellingham, Wash. She was indicted in July 2009 after ICE's investigation showed that the storage unit she had used contained 57 pounds of BZP and Ecstasy tablets. She pleaded guilty to possession of BZP with intent to distribute in November 2009.
Court documents in this case detailed how Edwards began driving a Ford Explorer across the border in December 2008 with BZP tablets concealed in a hidden compartment. She made about a dozen trips and each time smuggled about 50,000 pills.
Edwards was part of a conspiracy that moved drugs from Canada, stored them in Washington state and eventually sent them by train to Chicago and Detroit for distribution. ICE investigators learned that one of her co-conspirators in the case, Maksim Maiburov, entered the United States 41 times and traveled to Chicago on Amtrak 26 times during an eight-month period starting in August 2008.
"Today's sentencing should remind would-be drug smugglers of the severe consequences that await if they succumb to the lure of quick riches," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "ICE is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to deter the smuggling of contraband across our border whether by air, land or sea."
When Edwards addressed the court, she spoke through tears saying she regrets what she did every day. U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones noted the hundreds of thousands of pills she brought into the country saying, "think of how many lives you impacted with the number of pills you brought in. That could have been the first step for that young person on a lifetime of addiction."
BZP is a chemical stimulant similar to the drug Ecstasy, and is usually produced in powder or tablet form. In 2004, BZP was classified as a Schedule 1, controlled drug in the United States. Twelve other countries have also banned BZP, making it illegal to produce, sell and possess the substance without authorization.
ICE was joined in the investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Seattle Police Department.