BC Men Who Dug Drug Tunnel To US Sentenced To Nine Years
(15 Jul 2006) National Post Washington
VANCOUVER - Three B.C. men who dug a drug-smuggling tunnel under the U.S.-Canada border were sentenced yesterday to nine years in jail in U.S. District Court in Seattle. The sentence imposed on Francis Devandra Raj, 31, Timothy Woo, 35, and Jonathan Valenzuela, 28, all of Surrey, B.C., was nearly double the term requested by defence lawyers, said Emily Langley of the United States Attorney's Office. According to Ms. Langley, the defence had asked the judge to consider a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for their clients, all of whom pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of conspiracy to import marijuana.
Federal prosecutors, however, argued the scope and sophistication of the men's smuggling efforts required a stronger legal response.
In a written sentencing memorandum, assistant U.S. attorneys Jill Otake, Annette Hayes and Doug Walley said the tunnel posed a serious threat to national security.
Raj, Woo and Valenzuela were arrested last July, shortly after they completed the 110-metre-long tunnel, pictured, between Aldergrove, B.C., and Lynden, Wash. The tunnel ran from the living room of a home on the U.S. side to a boarded-up Quonset hut on the Canadian side. After three pot-running trips, Investigators shut down the tunnel on July 20, 2005 and arrested the three men. Following their prison term, all three men are subject to five years of supervised release.
Ms. Langley said the men must serve 85% of their sentences -- approximately 7 1/2 years -- before becoming eligible for parole.
The tunnel, meanwhile, has been filled in.