Customs sniff out pot shipment in bear cage
A Canadian man attempted to cross the border with two black bears last week, but was arrested after customs inspectors found 166 pounds of B.C. bud marijuana and $180,000 in cash.
It was during a routine examination on January1 27 that inspectors and canine enforcement officers, with the help of a narcotics detector dog named Theo, found the drugs and money hidden in vacuum-sealed bags within the trailer frame and the false walls of the bears� wooden den. Customs inspectors found a total of 156 vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana, worth an estimated local street value of $500,000. The bears were allegedly headed to the states to be used in the film industry.
Duane Christopher Bradley, 23, of Abbotsford, was arrested on federal charges of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. He made his first court appearance February 4 in front of Judge John L. Weinberg in Seattle.
The official complaint against Bradley stated he admitted trying to smuggle the marijuana into the United States, and also admitted hiding the money and marijuana in a false floor, false wall, and a wood-framed container used as a den for the black bears, in the trailer. �Bradley stated that he built the false floor and the false wall in the bear den. He built the bear dens for legitimate use, but installed a false wall inside of it for marijuana transportation. The bear den dimensions are 4 ft. wide, 3.5 ft high, and 5 ft. deep,� the complaint read.
In a recent press release, U.S. Customs Service assistant special agent in charge, Charles McLeod, in Seattle, stated, �This is an active investigation. We do not believe the driver acted alone and we do anticipate additional arrests.�
The two bears, Corkey and Pumpkin, were detained by U.S. Customs and are currently staying at the Sarvey Wildlife Center, a state-approved large animal center in Arlington, where they have been placed on a special low-calorie diet consisting of fruits, nuts and dry dog food.
�The bears are doing good,� Dennis Whitney, of Sarvey�s medical staff, said. �We definitely had to change their diets though. They were only being fed turkeys, which is definitely not a primary diet for bears, since they�re mostly vegetarian.�
Whitney said the Center received a call from Customs at 6:30 p.m. on January 27. �Customs was looking for someone to care for the bears,� he said. During the day, Whitney noted, the bears had remained in the trailer and were actually put in one den at one point to allow the inspectors and Theo to safely inspect the inside of the trailer. �The dog had smelled the drugs from the outside. And Bradley then moved the two bears together,� Whitney said.
Corkey and Pumpkin remained in the trailer until Thursday, when they were then tranquilized and moved into the Center. The bears apparently had made several trips to the U.S., and were comfortable in the trailer.
The bears, Whitney stated, are not used in the entertainment industry. �It was just an excuse. He doesn�t own the bears, he was just the driver. We�re not really sure who owns them, but it�s someone in Canada.�
Peg Fearon, the U.S. Customs service area port director, said in a recent press release, �This is another significant seizure here in the Blaine area. Using live bears to disguise a smuggling attempt is a perfect example of the devious methods people will use to move illicit narcotics and currency across our borders. Once again, the diligence of our officers has paid off.�