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Leader of international drug smuggling ring sentenced to 15 years | U.S. District Court
The U.S. leader of an international drug smuggling ring was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Jacob Saul Stuart, 39, of Kirkland, Washington, pleaded guilty in November 2011, following his arrest on April 28, 2011.
The investigation into the international drug trafficking ring began in May 2010. Using court authorized wire taps, investigators with DEA and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) determined the drug ring was transporting and distributing 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana and 100 to 200 kilos of cocaine every month. The marijuana was smuggled into the U.S. from Canada and distributed across the country to California, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia and New Jersey among other locations. Proceeds from the marijuana distribution were used to purchase cocaine in Southern California. The cocaine was transported to British Columbia for distribution. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said that in his 31 years on the bench, “this is one of the largest drug cases we have had in this district. This is a dangerous business with dangerous people who don’t hesitate to use violence.”
“This defendant tried to hide his international drug dealing while posing as a stay-at-home soccer dad,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “His lust for drug money disregarded the harm he spread throughout communities in the U.S. and Canada, and enriched a violent criminal gang.”
Two dozen people in the U.S. and Canada have been charged in the case. Five have already been sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The smuggling organization had ties to members of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang in British Columbia, Canada.
One of the telephone calls recorded in the case captured Stuart discussing the purchase of guns, bats and chemical sprays for Canadian members of the criminal ring who were traveling to Washington state to investigate more than 100 kilos of cocaine that had gone missing. The drugs had been seized by law enforcement. Prosecutors highlighted Stuart’s knowledge of his violent criminal associates in their remarks to the court. “Stuart knew - and apparently did not care - that he was working with a large Canadian organized crime group that was willing to use violence to further its ends. These facts call for a very lengthy sentence,” prosecutors said in court.
“Stuart and his partners created an elaborate drug distribution scheme that not only benefited themselves, but a violent Canadian crime syndicate,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “HSI is dedicated to working with law enforcement partners to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and bring to justice those who torment our communities with their criminal activities.”
“Jacob Stuart used Washington State as a safe haven to conduct his international drug trafficking enterprise,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “Marijuana trafficking has no limits and fuels criminal organizations and their violence.”
Other defendants already sentenced in the case include: 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 working on the cocaine side of the smuggling was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Over the course of the investigation investigators seized more than $2 million and 136 kilograms of cocaine. On April 28, 2011, the day search warrants were executed, investigators seized more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from locations across the country.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by DEA Offices – Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, Fresno, Los Angeles and New Jersey; ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations - Seattle and Sacramento; Customs and Border Protection – Office Of Air & Marine; King County Sheriff’s Department; Seattle Police Department; Washington State Patrol; Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force; and the Bureau Of Narcotics Enforcement (California).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi and Jeff Backhus.