A Vancouver man who pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges after being arrested last August trying to pick up a load of cocaine in Blaine has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Philip Cote, 52, was also handed four years of supervised release for his role in a scheme to smuggle large quantities of cocaine into Canada and MDMA into the U.S., including through the Peace Arch and Pacific Highway borders.
According to a news release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cote and a co-accused travelled across the border in tandem – with one as a lookout and one carrying drugs in a secret compartment in their vehicle – 86 times since 2006, as part of the drug-trafficking operation.
Court records indicate Cote, who had trusted-traveller status, used the Peace Arch crossing on July 25, 2014 to meet his contact in Blaine with 20 kilograms of ecstasy hidden in the truck of a car. He believed the drugs would be delivered to southern California, and instructed the contact to pick up a 32-kg load of cocaine and hide it in the walls of an SUV for the return trip.
In fact, the person Cote met was working with agents from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
When Cote went to pick up the cocaine on Aug. 25, crossing through the Pacific Highway border, he was arrested. The estimated street value of the drugs was $1.5 million.
Cote pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to distribute the two drugs.
At sentencing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that Cote had “seen people’s lives ruined by drugs,” and yet he transported drugs to make money.
HSI Special Agent Brad Bench said Cote was “mistaken” to believe his clean record and trusted-traveller membership “would allow him to escape scrutiny at the border.”