An American man accused of illegally smuggling several migrants from the United States into Canada through his border town property is claiming he was an informant for U.S. immigration officials, who allegedly knew of his activities for years.
Robert Boule was charged last year with multiple counts of human smuggling. His bed and breakfast, dubbed Smuggler’s Inn, sits just steps away from the U.S.-Canada border in Blaine, Wash., at an unfenced portion of Zero Avenue near South Surrey, B.C.
While that case is winding its way through the Canadian courts, Global News has obtained documents from a civil case in U.S. Federal Court in Seattle, where Boule is claiming in sworn testimony that he was an informant for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and the U.S. Border Patrol for years — providing information about people who were crossing into Canada from his property.
According to the documents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Boule has claimed he “has been assisting the Border Patrol since about 2003, providing their intelligence unit with information about his guests, which has resulted in numerous arrests.”
The U.S. Border Patrol denied Thursday that Boulet was an informant. Tanya Roman, a spokesperson for ICE, told Global News that the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
“Additionally, due to law enforcement sensitivities, ICE does not discuss informant operations nor reveal the identities of informants,” Roman said in a statement.
Reached in Bellingham, Wash., Boule’s American lawyer Gregory Boos said neither he nor Boule are allowed to speak publicly about the Seattle civil case or Boule’s claims about his work with the U.S. government.
The massive trove of documents connected to the 2014 case has hundreds of pages where text has been heavily redacted — presumably to protect sensitive U.S. government information.
The case centres on a years-old civil claim that Boule made against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who allegedly assaulted him on his property.
According to the documents, the alleged assault happened while Boule was awaiting the arrival of a migrant from SeaTac Airport in Seattle to come and stay at his Blaine property. He openly talked with Border Patrol agents about that guest, the documents state, with Boule referring to an “arrangement.”
Boule is accused of helping seven illegal migrants from Afghanistan and Syria cross into Canada from the Smuggler’s Inn. He’s facing 21 charges for human smuggling under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Crown prosecutors say the migrants contacted Boule by phone or text and he then picked them up in Blaine or Seattle. It is alleged Boule charged the migrants between US$200 to US$700 from May 2018 to March 2019.
Boule was giving migrants directions on how to travel east on Zero Avenue to get them to a nearby gas station on the Canadian side of the border, Crown alleges.
Crown says a Canada Border Services Agency investigation found Boule “operates a high-volume, highly profitable smuggling business,” according to court documents.
Boule is challenging the charges against him on constitutional grounds, which has delayed a trial that was scheduled to begin on Sept. 17. Five Crown lawyers have been assigned to the case, while Boule’s counsel is being paid for by the Canadian taxpayer.
Boule’s lawyer has said he believes his client is being made into a scapegoat by the Canadian government.
“He’s providing a service, he’s an innkeeper, and I highly doubt that he was organized in some sophisticated alien smuggling operation,” Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer and long-time friend of Boule’s, told Global News earlier this month.
“Yes, I’m sure some of his clientele did go to Canada illegally. But I think you should be looking at the people who entered illegally, not the innkeeper who happens to be right on the border.”
A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to rule on Boule’s application in four months.
—With files from Rumina Daya, Jon Azpiri and Simon Little