Two Bellingham brothers face 10 years to life in prison after a federal jury found them guilty this week of trying to smuggle 29 kilograms of cocaine into Canada.
A criminal complaint indicated brothers John Emmett Brown Jr., 46, and Derrick Louis Carter, 38, have run drugs and guns across the border since 1996, using camouflage suits, smoke grenades, bear spray, Kevlar vests and more than a dozen smuggling trails.
Carter has been arrested in Canada and deported three times. For Brown, it’s 10 times.
Back in 1997 the brothers were detained at the Harvey Road trail, off H Street Road in Blaine, wearing camouflage, military gear and bulletproof vests, according to federal prosecutors. A trial brief documents more recent incidents — in May 2011, August 2013 and September 2014 — when Brown was caught carrying bear spray, smoke grenades and other gear often used by smugglers.
Around 10 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2014, a sheriff’s deputy stopped a speeding blue Chevrolet Sonic on H Street. The driver was Carter. Brown’s ID sat in the center console, according to court papers.
“H Street is an area notorious for narcotics smuggling and is the last major east-west road in Blaine before reaching the U.S.-Canada international boundary,” according to the complaint.
U.S. Border Patrol agents responded, too, and Carter gave them consent to search the car, a rental from Hertz. In the trunk they smelled pepper spray. U.S. agents set up a lookout near H Street and Harvey roads — the same rural, wooded spot from years earlier — to see if he had dropped anyone off, or planned to meet someone.
Moments passed before authorities saw two silhouettes on the Canadian side running by a ditch that marks the border, then turning north onto 188th Street. One of the runners wore camouflage, and both had backpacks — so U.S. authorities notified Canadian police.
A short time later, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers arrested Carter’s cousin, Victor Tyrone Peal, of Bellingham, about three-quarters of a mile north of the border. Before midnight a second man, Kyle Maurice Provo, of Surrey, B.C., was arrested in brush nearby, wearing a black T-shirt and black pants.
Prosecutors believe a third smuggler, Brown, escaped.
Three backpacks were found in the trees, with a total of 29 kilos of cocaine wrapped in 29 cellophane packages. Smoke grenades, bear spray, a ballistic helmet, a loaded pistol magazine, and four cellphones were seized that night, and the next day Mounties found a Maadi Cadet 1 pistol under a tree.
Provo claimed he got into an argument with his girlfriend, and she kicked him out of their car and told him to walk. He claimed he didn’t know Brown, though they are cousins.
A video found on Provo’s Blackberry showed Brown, on Nov. 6, driving and patting a blue duffel bag. Another undated photo on the phone showed the duffel bag holding a white powder, packaged like the drugs found that night in Surrey. Provo was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for drug crimes in Canada.
Peal awaits trial. That night he told Mounties he was playing a game of “follow the leader.”
Two months later, local police arrested another person who agreed to give information about a smuggling case, in exchange for no charges in the new case. That person, and a second witness with no criminal record, described the week leading up to the Harvey Road case: a round trip to Los Angeles to pick up a load of cocaine, a meet-up in the parking lot of the Fred Meyer store on Lakeway Drive in Bellingham, and extensive efforts by Brown and Carter to cover their tracks.
Jurors sat through 11 days of trial and deliberated for 10 hours before finding Brown and Carter guilty Monday, July 25, of possessing 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiring to distribute cocaine. The court declared a mistrial on a third count: using a gun, the Maadi Cadet, in the furtherance of drug trafficking.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the brothers face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison to life. A sentencing date has been set in late October.