Pemberton men charged with drug smuggling 

Amount of marijuana seized by U.S. agents in dispute

"Our penalties, compared to your, are draconian when it comes to marijuana."

U.S. Attorney Richard Troberman

A suspicious clear-cut tipped off U.S. authorities that something was amiss in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains. As a result, three Canadian men with ties to the Pemberton Valley have been detained in Seattle awaiting arraignment on charges of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana.

The men, Jake Humphrey, Paul McCluskey and Shane Menzel, were arrested on Wednesday, Sept. 14 about 90 km northeast of Seattle. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jesse Miller provided the court with the following account of events.

Assuming the deforested area to be a makeshift helicopter-landing pad, law enforcement officers were waiting when McCluskey and Humphrey arrived at the area. Menzel arrived via helicopter about an hour later. Miller’s report states that McCluskey removed two hockey bags and several smaller bags from the helicopter as Humphrey stood guard.

The report alleges that 123 lbs. (55.9 kg) of marijuana was seized.

However, Menzel’s lawyer, disputes that figure.

"Currently they’re over-charged," stated Richard Troberman. "What we have is under 50 kg of marijuana, but they’re being charged in excess of 50 kg. By alleging this (the agents) could trigger more dramatic penalties."

The defense counsel explained that current sentences for offenses arising from the seizure of less than 50 kg of marijuana carry a maximum five-year prison sentence. However, amounts between 50 kg and 100 kg are subject to maximum prison sentences of 20 years.

"Our penalties, compared to yours, are draconian when it comes to marijuana," said Troberman, who added that the maximum sentences are rarely applied.

In his report, Miller also claimed that Menzel admitted making three previous smuggling trips, for which he was paid $150 per pound of marijuana. Asked how this could impact the case against Menzel, Troberman said he doubts the authenticity of the statement.

"It could negatively impact the case, if it was true," said Troberman. "What we have is simply an assistant saying what he believed to be the case."

Despite the current anti-marijuana climate in the U.S., the lawyer said that the accused will be subject to the same process and penalties that would apply to American citizens. However, if convicted, the men could be returned to Canada to serve out their sentence under a U.S.-Canada treaty provision.

The men, who made their first appearance in US federal court in Seattle on Sept. 15, are all expected to enter not guilty pleas at their Sept. 22 arraignment before Judge Coughenour. A trial date will be set at that time.

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