DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - A man and woman in their 60s were each sentenced to more than two years in prison on Monday for their roles in an effort to smuggle 827 pounds of marijuana into the United States from Canada.
Gail Darwin, 62, who owned a home in northern Minnesota, and Joseph Heater, 65, a Canadian who owns a house on the other side of the border, were each sentenced to the 27½ months in prison, said Koochiching County Attorney Jennifer Hasbargen.
Last month they pleaded guilty to possessing 827 pounds of marijuana valued at $4 million. Officials caught them this spring along the border with the drugs stuffed in a trailer.
Hasbargen said state sentencing guidelines call for a four-year sentence, but it was reduced for various reasons including Darwin's health issues and Heater's former service in the Canadian Air Force.
Hasbargen also said their relatively clean criminal records and their ages were considered during the sentencing. Darwin and Heater must serve two-thirds of their sentences, or about 1½ years, before being eligible for parole.
She said it was the largest drug seizure her office had ever prosecuted. She said the amounts of marijuana seized have steadily increased.
"Eleven pounds, 164 pounds, 827 pounds. Of the ones that we have had, they are drastically growing in amount," she said.
Several law enforcement officers have said the heavily forested U.S.-Canada border in northern Minnesota has become an popular location for smuggling Canadian marijuana bound for markets in the Upper Midwest.
In Darwin-Heater case, Border Patrol agents seized hydroponically grown B.C. Bud, an expensive, high-grade form of a marijuana, after officers put Darwin and Heater's homes under surveillance after noticing sled tracks between them.