B.C. speedboat driver arrested with 650kg of meth 'feared for his family's safety,' he told U.S. investigators
New details are emerging after a 51-year-old Alberta man was arrested aboard a speedboat that U.S. authorities say was carrying 650 kilograms of methamphetamine between Washington state and British Columbia.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents spotted the 5.5-metre Bayliner Capri speedboat riding low in the water Wednesday morning near Stuart Island, Wash., just metres from the Canada-U.S. border near Vancouver Island.
Authorities used their lights and sirens to stop the Canadian-registered vessel as it headed west for the border around 10 a.m., according to an affidavit sworn in a Seattle court Thursday by an agent of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The speedboat's operator identified himself as a resident of Cowichan Bay, B.C., and said he was heading to Sidney, B.C., north of Victoria, according to court documents.
The man initially told the customs agents he was moving the boat for a friend but became lost and strayed into U.S. waters.
He also told the agents he did not have any guns on board, and complied when asked to pull back a canvas that concealed the boat's rear deck, according to the documents.
Under the cover, agents found more than a dozen duffel bags stacked on the deck, each one secured with a padlock through the zipper, according to the affidavit.
The man told the officers he did not know what was in the bags, according to the documents.
PISTOL AND SIGNED DOLLAR BILL FOUND
An officer cut a small hole in one of the bags, revealing its contents as suspected crystal meth wrapped inside vacuum-sealed bags, according to the documents.
The man was immediately taken into custody and he was brought, along with the boat, to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Bellingham, Wash., where he was turned over to Homeland Security investigators.
Customs agents at the coast guard station conducted a search of the speedboat with a police dog, ultimately turning up 28 locked duffel bags of suspected meth found in the deck, cabin and storage areas.
The contents were later tested and were consistent with methamphetamine, according to investigators.
Agents also removed from the boat a backpack containing a loaded 9mm pistol and a box of 9mm ammunition, according to the court documents.
The backpack also held a ledger "that documented details regarding this narcotics-smuggling event, as well as others," the documents said.
"Also discovered were three cellular phones and a single U.S. dollar bill that had '28 duffel bags' and a signature on it," according to the affidavit.
"Based on my training and experience, this is a verification method used by drug-trafficking organizations in order to maintain security while transporting narcotics," the agent said.
STRANGER OFFERED $1,000 TO TRANSPORT LUGGAGE
During police interviews, the man in custody told investigators that he is from Alberta and was in Victoria looking for work, according to the documents.
He also said that while walking in the Sidney marina, he was approached by a man named "Mike" who offered him $1,000 to drive the boat with from Sidney to Anacortes, Wash., and back with his "luggage."
The man agreed to the offer and "Mike" took a picture of his identification and then took him to the speedboat.
The accused told investigators he left Sidney on Tuesday and arrived at the Washington State Park dock in Anacortes later that day.
It was at the dock that he met four men in a black Toyota pickup truck that was towing a boat trailer. The men took him to the Anacortes Inn, where he stayed alone overnight, according to the documents.
He left his room at 7 a.m. the next day and met with three men who were towing the boat behind the Toyota. All four men headed back to the dock where they launched the boat with the accused at the wheel heading back to Vancouver Island.
'FEARED FOR HIS FAMILY'S SAFETY'
Investigators say the accused denied any knowledge of the drugs in interviews, and claimed he had found the pistol. He later admitted the pistol was his and he carried it for safety while hiking, according to the documents.
The accused told the agents that "after departing, he drove the boat in circles and contemplated turning the boat in to the police," the documents say. "But he did not because he feared for his family's safety."
The man also reportedly told investigators he was instructed to leave the boat in Sidney upon his return and leave the dollar bill on the seat.
Ted Karl Faupel of Alberta is charged with possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.