SEATTLE - A King County man who took the unusual step of notifying the government when he could not locate two backpacks containing cocaine he was smuggling was sentenced today in federal court to 14 years in prison and five years of supervised release, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Leroy Carr, 47, of Federal Way, Wash., was arrested in September 2007 by ICE agents along the Canadian border in Sumas, Wash. A federal jury found him guilty in October 2008 on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
According to court documents and testimony at trial, Carr had come to the attention of border agents on numerous occasions, each time in the possession of large amounts of cash and tools commonly used by smugglers, including night vision goggles and a GPS system containing coordinates to a well-known smuggling trail.
A few weeks prior to his arrest, Carr contacted ICE claiming he had stashed 31 kilograms of cocaine in two blue backpacks near the border. He said he hid the drugs on August 3, 2007, in the brush near an entrance to a Boy Scout camp, but when he returned the next day, the drugs were gone. Carr then asked ICE to put out a press release saying the government had seized the drugs so that the organized criminal group he worked for would not retaliate against him.
On August 21, 2007, a Boy Scout ranger called the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force to report that two blue backpacks found near the entrance to a Boy Scout camp appeared to contain cocaine. Test showed the backpacks, which were dry and in good shape, contained 31 kilograms of cocaine.
At trial, Carr falsely testified he never possessed the drugs and did not really know where they were, that despite having described the location to ICE agents and even drawing a map.
"Today's sentencing reminds us that drug smuggling is a serious crime with serious consequences," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge for ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "ICE will aggressively investigate those who seek to profit from the movement of illegal drugs across our borders."
In asking for a significant sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Crisham wrote to the court saying, "The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that this was not Carr's first time trafficking cocaine, and that on the contrary, he had smuggled drugs across the border on numerous occasions on behalf of the Hell's Angels. As Carr himself acknowledged at trial, cocaine is an extremely dangerous drug that has destroyed lives and ravaged communities. As a cocaine smuggler, he was an integral part of the illegal distribution network that continues to feed the demand for the drug."
ICE was joined in this investigation by the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office and the Northwest Drug Task Force.