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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Fraser Valley man who once had close ties to the leader of the United Nations gang was sentenced this week to more than eight years in a U.S. jail for ecstasy smuggling.

08:46 |

Joseph Patrick Curry, 50, was handed the sentence in Spokane Thursday after a joint sentencing submission by his defence lawyer and the U.S. Attorney's office.

The Chilliwack man ran into trouble in 2007 when he crashed a plane in a Washington state farmer's field. As he left the scene, U.S. authorities found duffel bags full of ecstasy nearby.

For three years he denied any link to the drugs, but pleaded guilty in February in U.S. District Court after reaching a plea agreement.

Judge Edward F. Shea sentenced Curry to 102 months behind bars followed by three years of supervised release.

Despite his guilty plea, Curry still took exception to the U.S. describing him as a leader of the drug ring. And he claimed that "he has demonstrated an acceptance of responsibility for his criminal conduct and entered a timely plea."

And Asst. U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed said a sentencing memo that the plea deal was appropriate because the sentence was sufficient "based on readily provable conduct, without the necessity of calling reluctant witnesses at a trial."

Curry was once photographed with UN boss Clay Roueche, who is serving a 30-year U.S. sentencing for cross-border smuggling and money laundering.

During a B.C. Supreme Court extradition hearing in early 2010, Curry's lawyer told Justice Peter Rogers that the ecstasy was not his client's and that the circumstantial U.S. case was not strong enough to warrant the surrender of a Canadian citizen.

Rogers disagreed and ordered Curry extradited. Curry chose not to appeal and surrendered to U.S. authorities.

Curry flew a red-and-white Cessna across the border into Washington's Okanogan County just before lunchtime on Aug. 10, 2007, alerting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Witnesses said the plane made an emergency landing in a farmer's field and that they could see a man walking from the Cessna out of view.

ICE agents searched the plane and found a for-sale sign with a B.C. number on it. They called and were told by the previous owner that he had sold the plane to Curry, a suspect in earlier cross-border drug runs. "After searching the plane that landed in the open field on August 10, 2007, several duffel bags were located," the indictment against Curry says.

The substance in the bags was determined to be 72 pounds of ecstasy, also known as MDMA, stamped with the letters BOSS. Three days later, Conroy spoke to U.S. agents saying he represented Curry, who "wanted to retrieve his airplane."

"Curry had relayed to his lawyer that he had engine trouble and encountered foul weather forcing him to land in the United States as his original destination was from Princeton to Penticton," the indictment says.

Curry tried to enter the U.S. on Aug. 13, 2007 at Sumas and was arrested. "Curry stated that he had been the pilot of the aircraft and denied any knowledge of any narcotics found in or near the aircraft," the indictment says.

Curry was later released on bail and went back to Canada, but failed to return to the U.S. for subsequent court dates. He was arrested again in March 2010 in a cross-border probe called Operation Blade Runner, targeting a gang allegedly involved in helismuggling.

The RCMP said at the time that Curry, of Chilliwack, and another man "were on their way back to pick up the remainder of the drugs at the helicopter landing zone just outside of Nelson."

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