American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents have illegally infiltrated Canada, set up reverse stings, dealt drugs, and manipulated the system to have Canadians tried and jailed on US soil, where they receive longer sentences. In 2002, 11 US federal departments, including the DEA, spent a total of $350 million US “to combat illicit drug use in Canada.” According to the US government, their efforts led to the annihilation of over a million Canadian marijuana plants.1
Canadian held in Holland for USA
Paddy Roberts, an exceptional pilot and former smuggler with an MBA, was charged in Canada in 1999, after an investigation that RCMP said would bring down one of the biggest Canada/US pot smuggling rings ever. A publication ban currently prevents Cannabis Culture from printing breaking news in the Roberts case, but there are some tantalizing details that aren’t covered by the ban.
The last time Cannabis Culture covered Paddy Roberts, he was languishing in a jail in Holland (CC#41, Canadian held in Dutch jail for the US). Although he was still on trial in Canada on charges that he flew pot to the US, he had gotten approval from the Canadian prosecutor to travel briefly to Ireland, where Roberts also holds citizenship.
A stopover in Holland saw Roberts arrested as soon as he stepped from the plane. From his cell, he sent Cannabis Culture documents which showed how his Canadian prosecutor had tipped off US authorities that he was traveling internationally and so could be arrested.
The US also had charges against Roberts, and hoped to extradite him from a Dutch jail into the US, where he would face a harsher trial and longer sentence than in Canada.
To Roberts, the Dutch seemed almost desperate in their hold on him. They kept him locked up even when American authorities missed deadlines to file papers officially asking for his extradition. When Roberts got word that his brother was near death in Canada, the Dutch finally let him return; but only for two weeks, and for 25,000 Euros bail.
When he got back to Canada, the Canadian judge refused to let Roberts return, so the Dutch kept his bail money.
In an interview with Cannabis Culture, Roberts said the Canadian judge had taken a look at the Hague snag.
“The judge in the case ruled that the prosecutor was responsible for the police arresting me in Holland, but that it wasn’t an ‘abuse of process,'” Roberts complained.
Even if Roberts beats his Canadian charges, he will still have American ones hanging over his head, which will make international travel dangerously tricky at best.n
In 2001, CBC’s Fifth Estate shocked the nation with news that the DEA and RCMP had teamed up to get Canadian pot smugglers into US jails. The show covered a controversial cannabis investigation involving what police claimed was one of the biggest US/Canada pot smuggling rings ever.
Paddy Roberts, accused of being the ring’s aircraft pilot, believes the DEA has new plans for Canada, particularly British Columbia, that will reap rotten fruit in the next couple years. “The DEA are buying Canadian pot and then finding the gatherers, the people who put together big shipments, and selling it to them,” said Roberts, in an exclusive interview with Cannabis Culture. “That way they get back the dollars they spent, and they get loads of information about the people who are selling it and who have it. They’ll wait a couple of years and then collapse the whole thing.”
The DEA might then have the Canadian sellers extradited south of the border for “conspiracy to traffic to the US,” or they might quietly lay charges in the US and then just wait for the unwitting Canuck to travel south of the border on a pleasure trip, where he would then be arrested.
Cannabis Culture spoke with Canadian lawyer Don Skogstad to get a legal perspective. He said that in order to charge Canadian cannabis sellers with “conspiracy to traffic to the US,” the undercover DEA buyer would have to say he was planning to ship their buds to the US, and somehow record proof of the conversation.
However, Skogstad also explained that DEA agents could conduct investigations to identify pot growers and traffickers, and then hand off their investigations to the RCMP without ever being identified when the case came to court. Thus they would avoid the political embarrassment of publicly meddling in another country’s domestic affairs.
“They may do surveillance, develop leads and then pass it over to the RCMP,” said Skogstad. “In court, they could disguise their involvement as that of a ‘secret informant.’ The identity of a secret informant is sacrosanct. There is an informant privilege of absolute secrecy.”
Skogstad felt there was a high probability that the DEA and RCMP already routinely use such quasi-legal methods in other “high profile” cases.
James Burke, an American lawyer who has defended many clients charged with cross-border drug offenses, told Cannabis Culture that the DEA focuses its efforts where Canadian drug laws aren’t as harsh as American ones. Burke explained that the DEA focused on reverse stings against Canadian coke dealers in the 90’s when it was illegal for the RCMP to do reverse stings, and then stopped when the law was changed to let RCMP do it for themselves. Now the DEA are going after Canadian pot growers and smugglers, who currently receive lighter sentences in Canada than they would in the US.
Burke also suggested that the DEA was probably sending large quantities of cash to the RCMP, to beef up pot investigations in Canada. These claims are echoed in a recent lawsuit filed by reclusive BC millionaire, Steve Ambrose. Ambrose is suing the RCMP for “abusing their powers, by maliciously, purposely and falsely implicating the plaintiff in criminal activity during the course of [a]drug investigation, for the improper purpose of receiving financing from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.”
With the DEA and RCMP working to snare them, the safest way for Canadian growers to conduct transactions is by relying on trusted contacts. Growers who have no choice but to sell to someone new should tell them they don’t want to know where it is going. Growers should be wary of anyone who deliberately says that they are going to smuggle their new purchase to the US, while talking suspiciously into their lapel.
In 1996, the explosive trial of Rock Machine bike-gang leader Salvatore Cazzetta exposed more questionable RCMP/DEA collaboration on Canadian soil. In Canada, DEA and RCMP agents aggressively marketed a cocaine deal to Cazzetta, and then lured Cazzetta’s associates to the US, where they were arrested. Cazzetta himself was extradited, stood trial in the US, and was locked up in a US prison.
During his case, Cazzetta’s lawyer, Gary Martin, argued that the RCMP called in the DEA with the intention of punishing Cazzetta more severely with a harsher US trial and sentence.
According to Martin, the RCMP officer in charge of the case, Kevin McGarr, admitted to bringing in the DEA for a reverse sting in a case that really had nothing to do with the US at all. But the officer also claimed he did everything “by the book.” McGarr testified that he only wanted to make the fake coke deal seem more realistic, using DEA agents posing as Colombian drug lords stationed in Florida.
While Officer McGarr’s testimony had defense attorneys shaking their heads, it was enough for an extradition court. One more Canadian was sent to be locked up in a US prison.
Lawyer James Burke has represented many cross-border accused, including Billy McAllister, a man extradited to the US in connection with the case against Rock Machine leader Cazzetta. McAllister was a widely-known figure in his own right, as the last person to once face prosecution under the death penalty in Canada.
Attorney Burke discussed the controversial case, supplying a unique perspective on cross-border cop collusion. He told Cannabis Culture that he personally knew RCMP officer McGarr and the DEA agent who worked with McGarr in Canada.
“If the DEA and RCMP hadn’t cooked up this whole thing, nobody would ever have come to the US to be arrested,” said Burke. “It all started when these police officers made friends.
[DEA agent] John Burns and [RCMP officer] McGarr became a team, and they decided to use the American laws to get rid of some of the ‘undesirable’ people in Canada. It was part of a pattern of trying to route things through the US.”
According to Burke, McAllister wasn’t originally interested in the DEA’s coke deal. DEA agent Burns used “intimidation to keep the game going,” said Burke, phoning McAllister’s buddy and pretending to be a Colombian drug lord, abusing him with foul language and threats against his life if he didn’t come through.
“It bothered me more than any case I have ever had bothered me,” Burke growled. “The more I dug the more I found there was a failure to disclose the truth, and even an active program to deceive the jury about the truth of the state of affairs.”
The media paints people like Cazzetta and McAllister as difficult figures to empathize with, but it is a slippery slope from them to countless low-profile Canadians, some of them bud smugglers, who will also disappear into US prisons.
“There were many Canadians brought down here in the early 90’s using the same tactics,” Burke told Cannabis Culture. “They used the border very effectively to hide the truth in my view. The Canadian police could not do what they got the Americans to do for them.”
Canadian judge rebukes DEA
Sometimes Canadian courts back the right of their citizens to be free of foreign cops on their own soil. Such cases make headlines as they reveal how the DEA engages in illegal activities to entrap Canadians for prosecution in the US.
A 2002 drug charge extradition case against Brent Anthony Licht, revealed how, in the words of BC Supreme Court Judge J Dillon: “The US Drug Enforcement Agency carried on a reverse sting operation in Canada without the knowledge, approval or authorization of Canadian authorities, and in the face of a [refusal]of Canadian authorities to continue on with the investigation in Canada.”
According to Licht’s defense lawyer, Jeff Campbell, the DEA agent in question was a former drug trafficker turned informant by the DEA, a tactic preferred by US narks, but one that reportedly still unsettles RCMP ethics.
During the initial investigation, RCMP officers had dogged the informant so hard that he couldn’t develop a single lead.
“The DEA wasn’t happy with what they got during that trip to Canada,” said Campbell. “They didn’t make any deals, they didn’t entrap anyone and didn’t advance the course of their investigation.
“After that, the agent decided to take another run at it,” continued Campbell.
“He came to Canada to entrap some Canadian citizens, without telling the RCMP what he was doing. The court in the Licht case found the conduct so offensive and such an affront to our national sovereignty that the court decided the only remedy was to stay the proceedings.”
Alliances between the DEA and RCMP have developed into international treaties pledging cooperation and organizations to facilitate coordinated efforts. The year after McAllister’s and Cazzetta’s cases, in 1997, the Liberal government would pass a new drug law, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, with provisions for the RCMP to legally engage in reverse stings and to authorize foreign agents stationed in Canada to do the same. By 2001, Canada’s Supreme Court had reworked the extradition process, making it nearly impossible for defendants to uncover dirty DEA involvement in Canadian cases.
Extradition is rigged for prosecutors to outmaneuver the truth, said Burke. Traditionally, extradition cases are not easy to win.
Burke explained that the prosecution only needs to show that they have the evidence necessary to charge and bring a case to trial in another country, not to win their case.
However, extradition can fail if the accused can successfully show that his constitutional rights have been violated. Police are not allowed to violate constitutional rights by engaging in illegal activity, or “abuse of process,” to arrest a suspect. The trick is getting police on the stand, or getting records of an investigation, to prove it.
In 1997, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the drug-charge extradition case USA vs Dynar limited constitutional appeals “to cases of real substance.” So extradition fighters are trapped in a paradox: they must provide some evidence that police have violated their constitutional rights before they can ask the courts to order disclosure of evidence that cops violated their constitutional rights!
In 2001, another drug charge extradition case, USA vs Kwok, upheld Dynar and added that even in cases of “real substance,” the judge didn’t have to order disclosure of evidence until after the Minister of Justice had ordered the deportation, the logic being that a person’s Charter rights hadn’t been infringed until they were almost on the plane to the US.
Of course American authorities would prefer that Canada’s extradition process amounted to catapulting Canadians to the US upon request. In one infamous case, an American judge and prosecutor publicly threatened that if three Canadian fugitives accused of a telemarketing scam fought extradition to the US, they would all receive maximum sentences, and once in jail would be repeatedly raped by male inmates.
? Special thanks to Kootenay pot-law expert and lawyer Don Skogstad and his assistant Dustin Cantwell, for their invaluable help researching cases and contacts for this story.
1) International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, US Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, March 2003