On the eve of his trial in the United States, Colin Martin, a 46-year-old convicted drug smuggler from the Shuswap, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge for operating a drug ring that flew marijuana and other drugs into Washington state and returned with cocaine to sell in B.C.
Martin admitted to running the cross-border helicopter-based drug-smuggling ring after nearly 10 years of fighting his extradition to the U.S. He was set to stand trial on the charges in Seattle on Monday, March 26.
He now faces five to 40 years in prison, although the U.S. Attorney’s office said it would be recommending no more than 10 years in a U.S. jail.
Martin’s sentencing hearing is planned for June.
Martin, a married father of six, has already served time in jail on drug charges in Canada, related to the production of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. This was connected to a large-scale marijuana growing operation being operated in an underground bunker on the property where he was residing in Malakwa, east of Sicamous. He was arrested in 2010 on that charge and was sentenced in 2014.
In 2007, Martin was also found guilty for his involvement in another cross-border drug smuggling operation in the late 1990s. He was convicted on eight counts, including conspiring to export marijuana, conspiring to traffic marijuana, possession of proceeds of crime and two counts of laundering.
As part of the U.S. case against Martin, prosecutors alleged Martin provided helicopters to transport drugs across the border.
On Feb. 23, 2009, one of those helicopters, flown by Samuel Lindsay-Brown from Canada into Washington State, was intercepted by U.S. authorities. Brown was found carrying a load of 420 lbs of marijuana. He’d allegedly intended to deliver the marijuana and pick up 84 kilograms of cocaine which had already been seized by authorities. Brown was arrested and, the following month, the 24-year-old committed suicide in a Spokane County Jail prison cell.
Alleged co-conspirator Sean Doak was extradited to the U.S. in 2015. He pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and, in 2016, was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Another alleged co-conspirator, Adam Serrano, was sentenced in the U.S. to three years in prison.
In June 2017, Martin appealed the 2014 extradition decision before the B.C. Court of Appeal. Court documents say Martin argued the justice minister’s decision to surrender him to the U.S. for prosecution was unreasonable because “she erred in finding the requesting state’s ‘outing’ him as a would-be informant was not an abuse of process.” It also argued that his incarceration in the U.S. would affect his mental health and his Métis heritage was not considered as part of the ruling.
In October, however, three B.C. Court of Appeal judges dismissed his appeal, discounting these arguments.
“The United States provided information regarding solitary confinement, a reality in both countries’ prison systems, and programs to address mental health concerns. It also advised that Mr. Martin’s Métis heritage can be considered at sentencing and that there are measures in place at the facility in which he is expected to be housed to accommodate his aboriginal background,” wrote Justice Gail Dickson in the decision.