SEATTLE – A Whatcom County man was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for cocaine trafficking, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Whatcom County Sheriff's Office and the Blaine Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST).
Estevan Olmos, 40, pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. Olmos admitted to hiding nearly 42 pounds of cocaine in an Everson storage unit that he intended to smuggle into Canada. According to the complaint, Olmos told HSI special agents that prior to his arrest he assisted in smuggling cocaine into Canada two or three times a week, with his largest shipment being more than 66 pounds.
"Make no mistake, the illicit drug trade is a ruthless underground business that demands law enforcement's attention on both sides of the border," Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "Through the coordinated efforts of border law enforcement agencies, nearly a million dollars' worth of cocaine was kept off of Canada's streets."
Investigators learned of Olmos' scheme after tying clues from two separate traffic stops together. In September 2011, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents patrolling along the U.S.-Canada border near Blaine spotted Olmos in a sport utility vehicle in a known trafficking area. He told the USBP agents he had just dropped someone off at the border. When asked whether he'd been paid, he said no, but admitted to driving individuals to the border for a fee in the past. The next day a Whatcom County Sheriff's Office (WCSO) deputy stopped a different car registered to Olmos in Everson. The driver fled, but the deputy found gym bags in the car containing 46 pounds of cocaine.
Further investigation led HSI special agents to a storage unit in the area, leased to Olmos. A WCSO drug detection dog alerted to the presence of drugs in the storage unit. The facility's owner told investigators he had seen a woman and two children moving suitcases into the unit. After obtaining a warrant, special agents and sheriff's deputies discovered nearly 42 pounds of cocaine in the suitcases.
In asking for a 10-year sentence prosecutors said: "[Olmos] enlisted the unwitting assistance of his wife and children, thereby also placing them in grave danger. On this single occasion, the defendant sent his wife and children to store more than $750,000 worth of cocaine in his storage unit, to facilitate transporting the cocaine into Canada. It is noteworthy that this dollar value is conservative given the cocaine had a purity content of 75 percent compared to the purity content of five to 20 percent ultimately found in the cocaine sold to end users. Even assuming that the total weight of the cocaine seized was not doubled or tripled by the time it reached the end users, this cocaine represents 18,920 user doses."
The HSI-led BEST is composed of full-time members from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Offices of Air and Marine, Field Operations and Border Patrol; the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Canada Border Services Agency; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. BEST Blaine combats transnational criminal organizations by identifying, investigating and eliminating vulnerabilities along one of the most diverse geographic areas along the northern border.
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.