May 12, 2014 - 9:06 AM
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - A British Columbia man who American authorities allege is the kingpin of a cross-border drug-smuggling ring has been ordered extradited to the United States to face conspiracy charges.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge in Kamloops, B.C., committed Colin Martin for extradition to Seattle, where prosecutors have charged him with conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, cocaine and MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
Martin was taken into custody following Justice William Ehrcke's decision, but he is eligible to apply for bail. There is a mandatory 30-day waiting period before his surrender.
U.S. prosecutors allege Martin was involved in large-scale drug-trafficking that saw marijuana and ecstasy shipped by helicopter to remote locations in northern Idaho and Washington state in exchange for cocaine, money and firearms.
The court heard Martin hired people in B.C. to load helicopters with as much as $5 million worth of drugs, then paid pilots to fly the choppers into the United States.
Martin's lawyer, Eric Purtzki, said a decision on a potential appeal of the extradition order has not yet been made.
"I am satisfied that the evidence ... discloses a case that would qualify for his committal to trial in Canada," Ehrcke said in his ruling released Friday. "I order that he be committed into custody to prepare for surrender."
Federal Crown prosecutor Andrew Majawa said Martin's crews made approximately three cross-border trips every two weeks.
The smuggling operation is linked to the February 2009 death of Samuel Lindsay-Brown, the court heard.
The 24-year-old Nelson, B.C., native was piloting one of the choppers connected to the smuggling ring and was arrested after landing with 400 pounds of marijuana in Washington state. He later hanged himself in a Spokane jail cell.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into the operation resulted in multiple arrests on both sides of the border.
According to American court documents, Martin offered in 2009 to make a deal with the DEA that would see him roll on other smugglers in exchange for the opportunity to continue his trafficking business unimpeded for 10 years.
Authorities said they did not accept his offer.
In March, Martin pleaded guilty in a Salmon Arm, B.C., 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 2006, Martin was sentenced to serve two-and-a-half years in prison for a Canadian conviction connected to cross-border drug-smuggling.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014