[h1]U.S. speed trap nets $7 million in ecstasy pills[/h1]
A Vancouver tow truck driver was nabbed near Sacramento, Calif., over the weekend, allegedly hauling more than $7 million worth of ecstasy pills.
U.S. court documents say police also found $435,000 US in vacuum-sealed bags hidden in a secret compartment of the tow truck driven by B.C.'s Robert James Fox. The cash was in sequential $100 bills.
Fox, 37, is now charged with importation of ecstasy, known as MDMA, as well as possession with intent to distribute it and "bulk cash smuggling." He was ordered detained in custody Tuesday.
Speeding brought Fox to the attention of California Highway Patrol officer Lambert Montano last Saturday, the documents say.
"While officer Montano was citing Fox, he observed several discrepancies under the bed of the truck that was indicative of containing a hidden department," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent Bradford Bybee said in an affidavit.
Bybee's drug dog found the stash of ecstasy in the truck, he said.
Bybee said agents located 69 large double-wrapped plastic bags full of 390,000 tiny pills in rainbow colours weighing 225 pounds.
Fox told U.S. agents that he did not know how the drugs and wads of cash got into his tow truck.
He said he began working for Vancouver's Federal Towing Ltd. about a year and a half ago, but claimed he did not know who owned the company, nor who his boss is.
"He said he does not remember who hired him," Bybee said.
"Fox said he was paid regularly with a company [cheque] and he does know whose signature appears on the [cheque.]"
Federal Towing is owned by Duke Johnson of Vancouver, according to the B.C. Corporate Registry.
Records show Johnson incorporated the company in 2003 under the name "Just Fore Play Pleasure Crafts Ltd.", but then changed the name to the less racy "Federal Towing" in July 2007.
No one from the company returned calls Wednesday.
Both Johnson and the tow company have loans and leases on several vehicles, including a 2008 Peterbilt truck, property registry records show.
"According to the vehicle registration, the declared principal operator of the vehicle is Fox," the U.S. affidavit said.
Fox told U.S. agents he had driven to the United States 50 times over the last 18 months to pick up vehicles and boats at auctions and transport them to B.C.
The ICE agents said the hidden compartment they located in the truck's chassis was very sophisticated "based on the wiring and electronic and hydraulic mechanisms attached to it."
While Fox denied knowledge of it, inside a suitcase in the truck was a book on the engineering of the truck chassis, as well as a manual on wiring trucks, Bybee said. The suitcase appeared to belong to Fox, the agents said.
Read Kim Bolan's blog, the real scoop, at vancouversun.com
By Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun May 21, 2009