SEATTLE - A former Tacoma, Wash., resident was convicted in federal court Friday for his role in smuggling a $2 million dollar load Ecstasy across the border from Canada into the United States in a case investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The defendant, Maleek James, aka Brian Womak, 35, was illegally residing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on December 10, 2009, when the smuggling incident occurred. According to court documents and testimony at the trial, James arranged for two co-conspirators to travel into the United States to pick up a load of Ecstasy that other members of the conspiracy had carried across the border near the aptly named the Smuggler's Inn.
That evening, James' sister-in-law Kim Farah, along with a second person selected by James, Naseer Hussain, crossed into the United States from Canada at the Blaine port of entry. The account the two gave officers at the port about the reason for their trip sounded suspicious. Shortly after the pair drove into the United States, near the Smuggler's Inn, law enforcement pulled over their vehicle and found more than 57 pounds of Ecstasy in a golf bag inside the car's trunk. The two were subsequently arrested.
Following Farah's arrest, James traveled to the United States for her court appearance. In statements made to law enforcement and on recorded jail calls, James made it clear he not only knew about the smuggling scheme but had been involved in putting it together. In one phone call James tells his sister-in-law, "We got greedy... we should have aborted the plan."
After a four-day trial, jurors deliberated about two hours before finding James guilty on all counts, including conspiracy to possess Ecstasy with intent to distribute; aiding and abetting the possession of Ecstasy with intent to distribute; conspiracy to import Ecstasy; and aiding and abetting the unlawful importation of a controlled substance. James, whose sentencing is set for May 13, faces up to 20 years in prison on each count. Farah and Hussain previously pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this spring.
ICE HSI received assistance in the investigation from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, United States Border Patrol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Border Services Agency.