Crime

Canadian caught at U.S. border tried to bribe his way out of trouble, charges say

A Canadian man offered “brown ones” — an apparent reference to Canadian $100 bills — for a U.S. Customs officer to overlook the marijuana and shotgun shells he tried to bring into America via the Sumas border crossing, according to charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.
A Canadian man offered “brown ones” — an apparent reference to Canadian $100 bills — for a U.S. Customs officer to overlook the marijuana and shotgun shells he tried to bring into America via the Sumas border crossing, according to charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A Canadian man tried to bribe a U.S. Customs officer with $200 when he was caught with marijuana and shotgun ammuntion at the border, according to charging papers filed this week.

Brian James DeCoteau, 52, of Nanaimo, B.C., drove to the United States on the morning of Monday, May 16, but he was stopped at the border in Sumas for a secondary inspection, according to the charges.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers reported finding marijuana and live shotgun shells in his vehicle. Charging papers say they patted down DeCoteau, too, and found a baggie of marijuana in a coat pocket. One Customs officer told him he faced a fine of $500, and that he needed to apply for a waiver before trying to enter the United States again.

“If I drop some brown ones on the floor on my way out of here could you make this go away?” DeCoteau asked the officer, according to the charges.

Canada’s $100 bills are brown. The officer asked if he was offering a bribe.

“Yes, if you can make this go away,” DeCoteau replied, according to the charges.

DeCoteau, who owns a landscaping business on Vancouver Island, said he might pay $500. The officer left to ask internal affairs what to do. He came back and asked DeCoteau again how much he would pay. He told him he’d give him “one brown one,” then clarified that he meant a $100 bill, according to the charges. Prosecutors allege the officer haggled until DeCoteau agreed to pay $200.

DeCoteau offered to drop the money in a bathroom, out of view of security cameras, according to the charges. Before he went in, Customs officers searched the bathroom without telling DeCouteau, in search of any errant $100 bills. They found none. Then DeCoteau went into the bathroom. Once he walked out, the officer walked in. He found a paper towel in the trash. Wrapped inside were two $100 Canadian bills, according to the charges.

Sheriff’s deputies booked DeCoteau into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of bribing a witness, specifically a public servant, a class B felony. He remained in jail Thursday in lieu of $25,000 bond, as set by Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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