Tim Petruk/Kamloops This Week
A Shuswap man alleged by American authorities to have been the kingpin of a cross-border drug-smuggling ring will be sent to the U.S. to stand trial on conspiracy charges.
In B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Friday, May 9, Colin Martin was committed for extradition to Seattle, where American prosecutors have charged him with conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, cocaine and MDMA.
There is a mandatory 30-day waiting period before surrender. Martin was taken into custody following Justice William Ehrcke's decision, but he is eligible to apply for bail.
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 decision. "I order that he be committed into custody to prepare for surrender."
The two-day extradition hearing heard a summary of the evidence American authorities have on Martin, who is from Malakwa, and his alleged involvement in a large-scale drug-trafficking ring that saw marijuana and MDMA shipped by helicopter to remote locations in northern Idaho and Washington state in exchange for cocaine, money and firearms.
U.S. authorities allege Martin would hire people in B.C. to load the helicopters with as much as $5-million worth of marijuana or MDMA, then pay pilots to fly the choppers to pre-determined locations across the U.S.-Canada border.
The haul of B.C. bud or pills would allegedly be unloaded by a ground crew in the U.S., and cocaine, firearms and money would be loaded into the helicopter for transport back to Canada.
According to federal Crown prosecutor Andrew Majawa, 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 24-year-old Nelson native was piloting one of the choppers linked 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 U.S. 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 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 behind bars after being convicted of Canadian charges stemming from another cross-border drug-smuggling ring.