Role in drug ring nets five years

Christopher Chambers, of Vernon, sentenced to five years for role in cross-border drug smuggling ring

A Vernon man arrested in the U.S. as part of a cross-border drug smuggling ring is staying in jail.

U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon sentenced Christopher Mark Chambers, 27, to five years in prison Monday in Great Falls, Mont., after Chambers pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to export cocaine.

Chambers will also be on supervised release for five years after serving his term, which could be shortened for good behaviour. However, the reduction will not exceed 15 per cent (nine months) of the overall sentence.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson said the judge took into account that Chambers had no prior record and was supported by about 30 family members and friends at Monday’s sentencing.

Chambers is one of six North Okanagan residents arrested by authorities in Canada and the U.S. in connection with Project Faril, a large-scale international drug smuggling investigation launched in 2011 by the Regina Integrated Drug Unit.

It has been determined that between December 2009 and April 26, 2011, a criminal organization smuggled approximately 12 separate loads of cocaine from southern California to Canada via the border in northeastern Montana.

On Nov. 26, 2009, Chambers and a co-conspirator traveled from B.C. to Seattle, where another member of the criminal organization directed them to travel to Los Angeles and take delivery of 100 kilograms of cocaine.

Following directions, Chambers and the co-conspirator first went to Las Vegas and rented two vehicles, then drove to L.A.

They picked up the cocaine in San Bernadino, Cal., then drove the two cars to Montana. The co-conspirator carried the cocaine in his car, Chambers followed in the second vehicle.

Once in Montana, Chambers identified a spot along the border between Montana and Canada through which the co-conspirator smuggled the cocaine into Saskatchewan.

Between April 26, 2011, and Oct. 1, 2011, law enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S. seized close to 214 kilograms of cocaine that the organization tried to export from the U.S. into Canada,  and approximately 100,000 tablets of ecstacy that the organization hoped to export from Canada into the U.S.

Chambers was the only North Okanagan resident arrested in the U.S. The five others were arrested in Canada, and their matters remain before the Canadian court system.