Kelowna drug pilot -- Blade Runner

A Kelowna man has been charged in connection with a major cross-border drug smuggling operation.

Dubbed Operation Blade Runner, U.S. and Canadian authorities have seized hundreds of pounds of BC bud, ecstasy and cocaine.

The investigation began in the U.S. in February when two men, including an Alberta resident, were pulled over in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were carrying more than 80 kilos of cocaine.

The investigation switched to Colville, Washington where a Revelstoke man was arrested after being caught unloading more than 400 kilos of marijuana from a stolen helicopter. The 24-year-old later committed suicide in jail.

In early March, a 29-year-old Kelowna man was arrested in Idaho after landing a helicopter loaded with more than 170 pounds of BC bud. The man has been identified as Jeremy Snow, 29. He remains in a U.S. jail. Castanet has learned that Snow received his flight training in Kelowna and was last seen in the area in February. He did not have a pilot's licence.

In all, seven Canadian men and one American have been charged in an elaborate scheme where BC bud and ecstasy was being dropped off across the border in exchange for cocaine. At least some of the cocaine was to stay in the U.S.

"It’s the dismantling of a fairly major and sophisticated drug operation that’s taken place over the course of the last couple of months here," says RCMP Corporal, Dan Moskaluk.

He says RCMP first became aware of the elaborate drug operation last year.

"We’d been looking at this operation, in particular the resulting arrests and seizures, as of late 2008."

Moskaluk says Snow was operating a Robertson R22 helicopter, but couldn't comment on where he was picking up the drugs to transport across the border. It may have been Chilliwack where two men were arrested after police seized an additional 150 pounds of marijuana and 40,000 ecstasy pills.

A 35-year-old Salmon Arm resident is also implicated in the scheme after police seized a number of guns.

Moskaluk says cracking the case is an example of how U.S. and Canadian authorities work together in battling the drug trade.

"I think this international investigation reveals how seamless our investigations can be between the two countries, there’s no borders in regards to criminality and organized crime."

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