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Man sentenced to 12 years for role in US-Canada drug smuggling scheme

Man sentenced to 12 years for role in US-Canada drug smuggling scheme

SEATTLE — A Whatcom County man was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for his role in a transnational drug smuggling scheme dismantled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and member agencies of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Glenn Stewart, 59, was convicted in July of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Using court authorized wiretaps DEA and HSI 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.

Special agents observed Stewart transport more than 230 pounds of what he thought was cocaine from a Seattle-area grocery store to his home in Custer, about eight miles southeast of the Blaine border crossing. What Stewart didn't know was that law enforcement, aware of the scheme, had seized the drug shipment and planted fake drugs in the vehicle, which Stewart picked up and later unloaded at his home. At his three-day jury trial, Stewart testified that he was an unwitting drug courier. He said he was unaware of the drugs and was just following directions on a BlackBerry smartphone that mysteriously appeared in his vehicle.

When he was taken into custody for questioning, Stewart told special agents he was afraid of the Hells Angels outlaw biker gang, which owned the cocaine. Those fears were substantiated by phone calls intercepted by law enforcement. On the calls, ringleaders discussed the purchase of guns, bats and chemical sprays for Canadian members of the criminal ring who were going to Washington to confront Stewart over the seized cocaine shipment, which they thought had been stolen. Law enforcement warned Stewart and his family. He has been in custody since his arrest in May 2011.

During sentencing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said Stewart's story did not make sense and found that he obstructed justice with his testimony. 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.

Twelve people in U.S. and Canada have been charged in the case. Six 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; 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: DEA Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Fresno, Los Angeles and New Jersey; HSI Seattle and Sacramento; 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.