Friday, 25 March 2011

A man prosecutors described as "chairman of the board" of a multi-million dollar drug smuggling operation was handed a five-year sentence here today.

Judge Robert Lasnik credited Jody York for leaving the violent drug gang before others were arrested in 2008.

But he noted that York would have been serving a much-higher sentence if he had not struck a plea bargain and surrendered himself to U.S. authorities.

It was a bizarre parade of Canadian smugglers - almost one every hour - at the Federal Courthouse here Friday.

They arrived with family and friends in tow to convince Lasnik that they deserved a break for their respective roles in the massive drug corporation that transported thousand of kilos into the U.S. and moved large amounts of cocaine north.

All had pleaded guilty in exchange for lower sentences.

York, who has been associated to both the Hells Angels and Independent Soldiers gangs, told Lasnik his criminal connections have been exaggerated by police and the media.

"I did the hardest thing in the world yesterday - I had to say good-bye to my two kids," York said as his wife wept in the gallery.

His "managing director" in the drug ring, Edward (Skeeter) Russell got handed a 4.5 year term.

Russell told Lasnik he got roped in my the lure of money.

"It was a great feeling. They are great guys," he said of co-conspirators York and Rob Shannon.

"You just don't think of the hundreds of people you hurt along the way."

Defendant Bryan Hanna was handed a year-long sentence, but allowed to return to B.C.for a medical appointment related to some recent seizures.

He told Lasnik he got lured in my the money while working as a car salesman.

He said he made $50,000 in all while he was involved.

Abbotsford resident Andrew Hall, who loaded up the clandestine compartments in trucks and campers with drugs, was handed probation.

He said York and Shannon were his friends and he provided them manual labour only.

Lasnik said he thought Hall was more deeply involved than he claimed, but was still willing to take a chance on him.

Hall said he volunteers at the Abbotsford Air Show, the food bank and a local animal shelter.

Three more Canadians will be sentenced Friday afternoon.


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