SEATTLE – A Bellingham man was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to 24 months in prison following an investigation by the Blaine Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST), which is led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Carlos Martinez-Medina, 22, pleaded guilty in March to exporting a controlled substance. He was arrested at the border by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers in December 2010 after officers detected cocaine on his driver's license. A search of his vehicle turned up nearly three kilograms of cocaine that prosecutors say has an estimated street value of nearly $100,000.
According to court documents, Martinez-Medina, who had no prior criminal record, was paid $3,000 by an unknown individual to transport the cocaine to Canada. That man instructed Martinez-Medina to find a car and drop it off at a predetermined location where it was loaded with the contraband. Martinez-Medina later picked up the car and drove it to Canada. He was caught before he could deliver the car to a drop-off location in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.
"When Martinez-Medina decided to accept $3,000 to traffic cocaine, whether he realized it or not, he accepted the risk of being caught and paying the consequences," said Brad Bench, acting special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "The BEST is determined to continue its coordinated effort to disrupt international crime."
Martinez-Medina was deported back to the United States within days of his arrest. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) transferred their evidence to the BEST. The task force pursued the investigation, leading to Martinez-Medina's federal grand jury indictment in October 2011.
The case was prosecuted by an ICE attorney designated by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington to prosecute immigration and customs related cases in federal court.
BEST Blaine includes law enforcement partners from HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration; multiple divisions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including the Border Patrol, Field Operations, and Air and Marine; the CBSA; the RCMP; U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; and Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.
HSI has established more than 30 BEST teams across the country in areas where transnational criminal organizations exploit vulnerabilities along the nation's border and at critical seaports. HSI is committed to dismantling the leadership and support infrastructure of criminal organizations responsible for perpetrating violence and illegal activity along our borders and in the nation's interior.