Mexican drug mule to serve three and a half years for smuggling attempt near Osoyoos | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mexican drug mule to serve three and a half years for smuggling attempt near Osoyoos

Twenty-four year old Alexis Joel Garcia Palomino faces another two and a half years in federal prison following sentencing for drug smuggling near Osoyoos earlier this year.

PENTICTON - A Mexican national caught smuggling more than a half million dollars’ worth of drugs into Canada will spend the next two and a half years in a federal prison.

Alexis Joel Garcia Palomino, 24, was sentenced in Penticton court this morning, Dec. 2, after pleading guilty to two counts of importing a controlled substance and one count of crossing the border illegally.

Palomino was caught crossing near Osoyoos with a back pack containing cocaine and methamphetamine with a street value of $689,000.

Federal Crown Prosecutor Ginger Holmes told court the charges stemmed from Palomino’s Mar. 17, 2016 early morning attempt to cross the border from the U.S. into Canada east of Osoyoos.

Members of the U.S. Border Patrol informed Osoyoos RCMP a lone man was observed crossing the border with a back pack and approaching a gravel pit on Highway 3 near Nine Mile Ranch at 12:41 a.m. that morning.

Four RCMP officers and a police dog converged on the gravel pit and spotted Palomino alongside Highway 3 nearby. When police identified themselves, Palomino fled towards the border again but was apprehended.

A search of the area later in the day revealed a backpack hidden near a small tree. Inside were 1,022 grams of heroin, (36 ounces) 5,089.7 grams of methamphetamine (180 ounces), cellophane-wrapped in eight large bricks.

Palomino also had two cell phones, two 10-inch knives, and night vision goggles.

Follow up with American border authorities resulted in video footage showing Palomino crawling across the border with the backpack, and later at the nine mile gravel pit without it.

Holmes argued for a sentence of two to eight years, noting the high street value ($689,000) of the drugs. Palomino had no prior criminal record but a pre-sentence report indicated he had been involved in drugs since he was 18 and had made previous trips across the U.S. Canada border, smuggling drugs for between $500 and $1,000 per trip.

She said Palomino, who has a grade one education, had been forced to make his last trip because of debts owed by his best friend, who he said would be killed if Palomino refused the drug run. The pre-sentence report also noted his stepfather had been killed by the cartel after Palomino refused to a previous drug run.

Defence lawyer Robert Maxwell said Palomino had "never been convicted of anything,” but ran into trouble a number of years ago when he became associated with the Mexican drug cartel. He said Palomino’s failure to cooperate with the cartel would result in the death of his family.

“He was in for a penny, in for a dime. If you don’t perform, they’ll kill your family. That’s what’s on the table here,” Maxwell said.

He said his client submitted the earliest guilty plea possible, given the fact he spoke no English and all court sessions involved an interpreter. He asked Judge Gale Sinclair to consider a sentence of between two and a half to three years.

“From the information I have, it appears he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t,” said the judge, noting Palomino’s crimes were motivated by the need for money for himself and his family.

The judge also noted the serious nature of the crimes, calling importing and exporting of drugs more serious than trafficking. He also noted couriers similar to Palomino’s profile were used by drug dealers because they are generally recognized sympathetically by the courts.

“Nobody here pretends to put forward the position these are not serious offences,” Judge Sinclair said and sentenced him to three and a half year in jail.

Palomino, who has been in jail since March 17, is entitled to 390 days enhanced credit for time served.

He has 888 days, or 2.4 years, remaining in his sentence.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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