U.S. prison term for Winnipeg smuggler
A Winnipeg man has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for buying about two dozen handguns smuggled into Canada by two North Dakota college students who traded the pistols for cash and drugs.
Gokhan Ozturk, 23, was sentenced Thursday in Federal Court in Bismarck, N.D., on charges of conspiracy to export firearms and conspiracy to distribute ecstasy.
Ozturk was given credit for the nine months he has spent in custody since his arrest, leaving him with another four years to serve. There is no parole in the U.S. federal justice system, but Ozturk could earn a 15 per cent reduction in his sentence for good behaviour in prison.
The former Minot State University students — one was a 20-year-old Winnipeg man attending the school on a football scholarship — were sentenced earlier to one year and a day in prison for their part in the smuggling scheme.
Prosecutors say 22 guns were smuggled across the border and three have been recovered. They say about 1,800 tablets of ecstasy went south.
Two of the handguns were recovered by Winnipeg police after crimes were committed using them, U.S. court documents said. The guns were purchased at three pawn shops in the Minot, N.D. area on 17 separate dates in 2008.
Arrested in undercover sting
According to the documents, Ozturk was arrested following a meeting with an undercover police agent at a Minot, N.D., restaurant in January. He thought he was meeting a new contact with whom to trade guns for ecstasy.
Police had been watching the ring after a confidential informant came forward in December to notify them about the trio's activities.
The documents said that after arranging the meeting, Ozturk and the agent finalized a deal where Ozturk would provide 10,000 ecstasy tablets in exchange for $10,000 and 13 handguns. The entire exchange was covertly recorded by the undercover agent.
A transcribed recording of their conversation shows Ozturk preferred 9-mm or .40-calibre handguns in trade for the drugs. Ammunition for the weapons was also to be provided.
"My guys up there … they need the shells with it … they can't get none of that (expletive) up there," Ozturk said.
Ozturk told the agent about his supplier in Vancouver and produced a quantity of ecstasy smuggled in a deodorant container over the border in Emerson, Man.
"We can do this successfully for a long time as long as we're smart about it," Ozturk told the agent.
The agent passed Ozturk $1,000 US as a down payment on the deal. A waiting team of officers swooped in and arrested him after he accepted the money.
CBC News w/ files from the Associated Press (AP)
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