A Vancouver, B.C., man who used the Nexus lanes to smuggle MDMA and cocaine across the border at Blaine was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday, June 2.
Philip Cote, 52, and a co-conspirator traveled in two cars across the border 86 times between 2006 and his arrest in August 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle. One person would act as lookout while the other had drugs in hidden compartments in a vehicle.
On July 25, 2014, Cote came into the U.S. at Blaine and supplied a contact there with 20 kilograms of MDMA hidden in his car trunk. Cote believed the contact would take the drugs to Southern California and then pick up 32 kilos of cocaine hidden in the walls of an SUV for the return trip. But Cote’s contact was working with federal agents, who intercepted the cocaine and arrested Cote on Aug. 25, 2014, when he went to pick up the cocaine.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office listed the street value of the cocaine from that one trip as $1.5 million.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
“Cote thought his clean record and trusted traveler program membership would allow him to escape scrutiny at the border,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle. “He was mistaken. It was HSI’s coordinated effort to detect border security violators that exposed Cote and his drug trafficking operation.”
U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik handed down Tuesday’s sentence in Seattle, after Cote pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to distribute MDMA and cocaine.