Trucker who hauled $1M in drugs from Kelowna fails appeal

Cross-country drug hauling

With a .45 calibre revolver stowed in a secret compartment of the cab of his tractor trailer and a personal stash of cocaine and meth, a long-haul trucker set out from Kelowna on Sept. 21, 2015 hauling three crates of cannabis and magic mushrooms worth in excess of $1 million.

But when David MacDonald, 43, neared his destination in Nova Scotia nine days later, the police were waiting for him after receiving an anonymous tip about his cargo.

On Thursday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld MacDonald’s convictions of possession for the purpose of trafficking and confirmed the forfeiture of the 2007 Peterbilt used to haul the drugs.

MacDonald, who was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in January 2019 for the cross-country trip, attempted to argue that the trial judge mishandled evidence and should have determined that MacDonald’s truck was his home and thus exempt from any forfeiture order. All aspects of the appeal were rejected by a three-judge panel.

At trial, MacDonald’s defense tried to claim he had been a “blind courier” and had no idea what he was hauling, but circumstantial evidence such as photos on his phone of vacuum-sealed stacks of cash and suspicious text messages led to his conviction.

According to court documents, MacDonald arrived in Kelowna on Sept. 19, 2015 following the delivery of a Mercedes Benz cab and chassis from Halifax to Calgary the week prior. 

His daily driver log indicated he picked up the three crates that police would later find filled with drugs on Sept. 21. The fraudulent bills of lading associated with the crates claimed they were filled with musical instruments from a Kelowna collectibles shop.

The next day in Manning, Alta. he loaded a large skidder that he would deliver to a company in Lanark, Ont. on Sept. 29. Shortly after 4 p.m. on Sept. 30, he was arrested on Highway 14 in Brooklyn, N.S.

At trial, a 22-year employee of Day & Ross Freight testified that she found the bills of lading — which fraudulently claimed the crates had been picked up from the  Day & Ross depot in Kelowna — were suspicious because the company typically ships fragile cargo in an enclosed container, not on a flatbed.

Both the shipper and consignee were also unknown to Day & Ross Freight, which typically makes shipments terminal-to-terminal. The bills of lading were also unsigned by either the shipper or driver and were missing accurate weights of the cargo.

“Had the goods... been at the Day & Ross Kelowna terminal, they would have been weighed and the weight entered on the bill of lading,” the court documents state, adding the bills were also erroneously dated for the future, which would have been rejected by the Kelowna Day & Ross computer terminal.

MacDonald was an independent owner and operator and had never transported goods for Day & Ross, so would not have been able to carry the company’s cargo.

The trial judge ruled that the bills of lading were so rife with errors, a trucker with MacDonald’s experience would have been “alive to the anomalies in them” and therefore couldn’t be hauling the drugs unknowingly. 

That, alongside the stashed pistol, suspicious text messages and photos of bundled cash, were enough for the conviction that was upheld this week.

Inside the crates hauled by MacDonald were 1,300 vacuum-sealed packages of cannabis with a total weight of 316.6 kilograms and three plastic bags of psilocybin weighing 1450.9 grams. The pot is worth between $600,000 and $1 million while the magic mushrooms were worth roughly $3,000.

The appeals court also rejected MacDonald’s argument that his tractor trailer was “real property” and should be exempt from mandatory forfeiture. 

“It does not matter that Mr. MacDonald used his truck to 'live and sleep' while he was on the road. Doing so did not transform the truck into real property,” the appeals court ruled. “Real property is fixed and immovable.”

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