by Kim Bolan
Special to the Langley Advance
A Langley man and one from Burnaby were handed hefty sentences in B.C. Supreme Court for their roles in an international cocaine smuggling operation.
Christopher Lloyd Mehan, 43, and Langley’s Jeremy Albert Stark, 41, were convicted by a jury in April of conspiring to import cocaine. Stark was also found guilty of plotting to traffic the drug.
On Monday, Justice Ian Bruce Josephson sentenced Stark to 13 years and Mehan, of Burnaby, to a decade behind bars.
Josephson said both men were cocaine importers “at the wholesale level,” with connections to buyers and transportation networks in Canada.
He noted that Stark was a directing mind of the cross-border operation, along with American Lionel Alvarez, who was convicted earlier in California and sentenced to almost 16 years.
The B.C. men were snared in the investigation that was started in 2008 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles.
“Using a confidential informant, the DEA were successful in distributing encrypted BlackBerry devices to members of an illicit drug organization,” Josephson said. “Some of the BlackBerry devices were successfully distributed to persons in Canada who were suspected of purchasing cocaine from Mr. Alvarez and importing the drug into Canada.”
The BlackBerrys used a server that was inside a DEA office, allowing agents to read all the messages as they were sent between drug gang members.
U.S. agents sent information to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C. “There was an extensive investigation of these activities on both sides of the border.”
The coordinated effort led to two large seizures of cocaine at the Pacific border crossing in December 2008.
The first was 121 kilograms – 65 of which “were brokered by Mr. Stark from Mr. Alvarez,” Josephson said.
“The second seizure was of 97 kilograms of cocaine at the border on December 24, 2008, in a shipment of bananas being carried by a commercial transport vehicle. Mr. Stark arranged the purchase and acquisition of the cocaine in Los Angeles, while Mr. Mehan organized its transportation from Los Angeles to Canada.”
After the U.S. investigation ended in 2009, the server was “physically moved to British Columbia to allow the CFSEU to continue the investigation on the Canadian side of the border,” Josephson said.
CFSEU announced the charges against Mehan, a Burnaby resident, and Stark, of Langley, as well as four others on Aug. 31, 2012.
CFSEU media officer Sgt. Lindsey Houghton said Tuesday the agency was “very pleased” with the tough sentences.
“These sentences are substantial and should not only hopefully serve as a warning but also as a deterrent,” Houghton said.
Josephson said both men “were motivated by profit and greed,” and that the operation involved “considerable planning.”
“Although perhaps a last resort, both Mr. Mehan and Mr. Stark were willing to resort to violence to recoup losses after the cocaine shipments were intercepted by authorities at the Canadian border.”
– Kim Bolan is a Vancouver Sun reporter.
For more from the Vancouver Sun, click HERE