SEATTLE – A Canadian man who smuggled drugs owned by the outlaw biker gang Hells Angels was convicted Thursday of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
James Postlethwaite, 60, of North Vancouver, British Columbia now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. The conviction is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
Postlethwaite was snagged during an investigation that revealed a Washington-based transnational drug smuggling operation. Using court authorized wiretaps HSI and DEA special agents determined the smuggling ring was transporting and distributing up to 2,000 pounds of marijuana and as much as 440 pounds of cocaine every month. As one of the ring's couriers, Postlethwaite transported marijuana and cocaine in hidden compartments in a 40-foot semi-trailer.
Investigators observed Postlethwaite deliver a drug load to a Seattle-area warehouse that was known to law enforcement to be a drug distribution point. After search warrants were served at the warehouse in April 2011, special agents learned more about the hidden compartment in Postlethwaite's semi-trailer. According to court records he transported as many as 95 drug loads across the border, including thousands of pounds of B.C. Bud marijuana into the U.S. and at least 130 pounds of cocaine into Canada. The hidden compartment, which could hold more than 600 pounds of marijuana at a time, had a very elaborate access system. The system used a separate power source to open automated panels that when open revealed a hidden void in the floor of the trailer.
Over the course of the investigation, officials seized more than $2 million and 300 pounds of cocaine; and more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana from locations across the country.
Two dozen people in the U.S. and Canada have been charged in the case. Seven have already been sentenced to prison, they include: Jacob Saul Stuart, the U.S.-based ringleader, 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, a drug courier, 12 years in prison; Mario Joseph Fenianos, a Canadian who obtained and smuggled cocaine for the ring, 13 years in prison; and Michael William Dubois, another Canadian associated with the cocaine side of the smuggling scheme, 10 years in prison.
This multijurisdictional case involved: HSI Seattle and Sacramento; DEA Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Fresno, Los Angeles and New Jersey; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Air and Marine; the King County Sheriff's Office; the Seattle Police Department; the Washington State Patrol; the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force; and the California Bureau Of Narcotics Enforcement. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.