May 8, 2014 5:33 pm

B.C. man wanted in U.S. to face drug charges

A B.C. man who boasted about controlling most of the marijuana-for-cocaine trade to the United States told American authorities he would identify other smugglers under certain conditions, his extradition hearing has heard.

File / Global News

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – A B.C. man who boasted about controlling most of the marijuana-for-cocaine trade to the United States told American authorities he would identify other smugglers under certain conditions, his extradition hearing has heard.

Colin Martin, nicknamed Rolex, is accused of moving large quantities of marijuana, MDMA, cocaine, firearms and money to Washington and Idaho using helicopters and encrypted conversations on smartphones, B.C. Supreme Court heard.

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American prosecutors have charged Martin with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute drugs and want him to stand trial in Seattle.

It’s up to B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke to decide whether Martin will be turned over to U.S. authorities.

Federal Crown lawyer Andrew Majawa said Martin’s company, Gorge Timber, is alleged by American officials to have leased two helicopters to move marijuana from B.C. to remote properties in northern Idaho and Washington.

Reading from U.S. court documents, Majawa described Gorge Timber as a front for the drug ring.

He said the company, owned by Martin and his wife, Jennifer Cahill, has never received a logging permit from the B.C. government.

“The company apparently has no other legitimate purpose,” Majawa said.

Majawa said Martin, who lives in Malakwa, in B.C.’s southern Interior, was directly responsible for organizing the logistics of the helicopter deliveries.

He allegedly hired pilots and ground crews in B.C. and the U.S.

Court heard Wednesday that Martin’s employees in the smuggling ring would communicate by BlackBerry Messenger using nicknames, and Martin was known as Counsellor.

Majawa called the evidence against Martin “powerful,” if not circumstantial.

“It’s quite rare that there would be direct evidence to determine whether or not a person is guilty of conspiracy,” he said.

“Mr. Martin leased the helicopters with the intention of furthering the objectives of the criminal group, which, of course, was smuggling drugs across the border.”

Defence lawyer Eric Purtzki argued that Leonard Ferris, expected by American prosecutors to be a key witness at Martin’s U.S. trial if he is extradited, had never even met his client.

Purtzki said there is no evidence Ferris knew Martin because he only identified his client as Rolex and Counsellor.

“The evidence against Mr. Martin is insufficient,” Purtzki said. “The allegations are vague, incomplete and insufficient.”

According to U.S. court documents, Ferris was arrested in Utah on Feb. 21, 2009, while driving a car containing 83 kilograms of cocaine en route to Washington for a meeting involving one of Martin’s helicopters.

Two days later, officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency met the helicopter in northeast Washington state.

The pilot, Samuel Lindsay-Brown, was arrested and the chopper was seized, along with an estimated $5 million worth of drugs, court heard.

Following that seizure, court documents say Martin was involved in lengthy BlackBerry Messenger conversations about the whereabouts of Lindsay-Brown and the drugs.

The investigation was launched after an undercover drug enforcement agent began discussions with one of Martin’s associates in Los Angeles about the purchase of MDMA, the documents say.

In September 2009, according to the documents, Martin called the DEA office in Vancouver and offered “to provide information regarding drug trafficking into the United States.”

The documents also say Martin boasted in the fall of 2009 about controlling 70 per cent of the cross-border marijuana-for-cocaine trade in B.C.

“Martin explained that he could identify other co-conspirators and direct law enforcement to drug loads so long as he was allowed to continue his drug business for 10 years and was assured that law enforcement would only arrest other people,” the document says.

The DEA did not accept that offer.

In 2009, Ferris was handed a six-year prison sentence in Washington state. Ross Legge, who was with Ferris in the car when he was arrested, was sentenced to 10 years.

Martin’s alleged drug-smuggling ring is also linked to the February 2009 death of Lindsay-Brown.

The 24-year-old man from Nelson hanged himself in a jail cell in Spokane, Wash., after he was busted flying a helicopter containing a shipment of marijuana.

In March, Martin pleaded guilty in a Salmon Arm courtroom to unrelated charges of production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking dating back to 2010.

He is due back in court on May 29 to set a date for sentencing.

In 2007, Martin was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars after being convicted of Canadian charges stemming from another cross-border drug-smuggling ring. (Kamloops This Week)

© Shaw Media, 2014

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