Drug smuggler - aged 70 - gets prison time
Canadian sentenced to 2-year term for ecstasy smuggling
At 70, Amar Kumar Dutt wasn't the picture of a heavy weight drug trafficker.
And that, federal prosecutors claimed, was what made the convicted ecstasy smuggler right for the job.
"For some time, Mr. Dutt was an ideal 'mule' for Canadian drug traffickers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville wrote the court. "Who would have suspected that a soft-spoken, modest-looking 70-year-old retired auto mechanic was smuggling ecstasy across international boarders?"
Sentenced to a two-year prison term Thursday, Dutt was caught driving a Ford minivan with a vacuum-sealed bag holding 40,000 ecstasy floating in the van's gas tank.
Dutt, of Surrey, B.C., was crossing the U.S.-Canadian border on May 29 at Blaine when a narcotics dog "hit" on the vehicle's gas tank, according to prosecutor's statements. Customs inspectors had become suspicious after Dutt claimed he was traveling to Seattle to buy "healing crystals."
Following his arrest, Dutt admitted to suspecting he was smuggling drugs but denied knowing the size of the shipment.
Writing the U.S. District Court at Seattle, Dutt's public defender, Paula Semmes Deutsch, described her client as an elderly man in poor health who'd recently fallen in with a con artist.
For almost 70 years, Deutsch said, Dutt had lived a law-abiding life, raising four children in the Surrey area. Dutt spent his working years as a mechanic, but was forced to continue to work following a divorce to supplement his $925-a-month retirement.
Writing the court, Dutt, who recently survived a six-way bypass heart surgery, apologized for violating U.S. law.
"I feel I betrayed someone I loved and respected," Dutt told the court. "I feel guilty about that. … I am very ashamed about what I did."
Scoville asked that U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly issue Dutt a three-year sentence, a term more than a year shorter than the standard minimum sentence. Acknowledging that Dutt can no longer act as a mule, the prosecutor said a prison term was needed to deter would-be drug mules.
Zilly ultimately sided with the defense, imposing the two-year term requested by Dutt's attorney, according to a Department of Justice statement.
"If you were 25 years old," the judge said, "this is not the sentence I would give you."
By LEVI PULKKINEN