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Washington state man sentenced for smuggling BZP

Defendant had secret compartment built into truck to transport drugs and money

SEATTLE - A Seattle-area man who smuggled more than 100,000 BZP (Benzylpiperazine) tablets into the United States from Canada in a hidden compartment of his truck was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $15,000 fine, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

James Deshawn Riggins, 28, of Mercer Island, Wash., was arrested by ICE agents at the Canadian border on April 27, 2009, after inspectors with U.S. Customs and Border Protection discovered 60 pounds of BZP his 2004 Chevrolet Avalanche. The drugs were concealed by a hydraulic-powered, false panel in the bed of his truck, secured by a secret code.

Riggins initially claimed he did not know the drugs were in his vehicle, but further investigation revealed he had been involved in a long-term drug smuggling conspiracy. Court documents indicate Canadian law enforcement authorities had been aware of Riggins for more than a year, due to his association with a drug suspect in Canada.

In the first four months of 2009, Riggins drove his truck and crossed the border into Canada 22 times. Bank records also revealed that during this period, more than $120,000 was deposited in his bank accounts in California, while large cash withdrawals were made in Seattle shortly before his trips to Canada.

At sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Diggs argued that Riggins deserved a significant sentence, as he was not an "unknowing drug mule" doing the bidding of a smuggling organization. He continued that Riggins "was driving his own vehicle that was purpose-built to carry contraband and currency back and forth across the international border."

"Drug smugglers are motivated by nothing more than deception and greed," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "The public needs to be aware of the hidden dangers posed by illicit substances like BZP, which can threaten the safety and well-being of our communities. ICE remains committed to investigating those who smuggle any type of illegal drug into the United States and ensure they are brought to justice."

At the sentencing hearing, Riggins told the judge his smuggling scheme was "not worth it. I had all the money, all the women, first class airline flights, but I still wasn't happy." Riggins said he became infatuated with a lifestyle that had him spending weekends with trips to Las Vegas.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said Riggins smuggled a large quantity of drugs and noted they were dangerous drugs because, "The drugs have characters associated with younger persons and the club scene." Judge Jones noted that the pills could have been the beginning of a lifetime of addiction for thousands of young people.

In 2004, BZP was classified as a Schedule 1 controlled drug in the United States. Twelve other countries have also banned BZP, making it illegal to produce, sell and possess the substance without authorization. BZP is chemical stimulant similar to the drug Ecstasy, and is usually produced in powder or tablet form.