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West Kelowna  

Guilty plea has local ties

A Canadian man pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge Monday for his involvement in a ring that used low-flying helicopters to smuggle cocaine and marijuana across the U.S. border in 2008 and 2009.

Sean William Doak entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Seattle after fighting extradition for years.

Kelowna resident Jeremy Snow was also arrested during a sting operation in early 2009. Snow was operating a Robertson R22 helicopter.

He was sentenced to 46 months for his role in the scheme.

Snow and his girlfriend Tiffany Goruk were found murdered inside a Cadillac Escalade that crashed at the Terravita condo complex in West Kelowna in 2013 Feb. 18, 2013.

Under the terms of his plea deal, prosecutors and Doak's lawyer agreed to recommend a prison term of seven to eight years, though the judge is not bound to follow that.

Investigators say the conspiracy was headed by Colin Hugh Martin, who has yet to be brought to the U.S. to face prosecution. His attorney, Peter Camiel, said Monday it isn't clear if or when Martin might be extradited.

At the time, Martin was out on bail pending an appeal of his sentence for an earlier smuggling operation involving his father and brother. He nevertheless managed to use a front company registered in his wife's name to lease helicopters that were used to ferry loads of marijuana and MDMA south to remote forests in Washington state and northern Idaho, and shipments of cocaine back into British Columbia.

In a 2009 interview with The Associated Press, Martin acknowledged obtaining the helicopters: "Sure, I have a past, but those charges were a decade ago," he said. "If you have the money and you want to get into a helicopter business, you can — doesn't matter who that individual is."

One participant told authorities they brought more than 650 pounds of cocaine into Canada every week. The cocaine was typically driven from the Los Angeles area.

One pilot, 24-year-old Sam Lindsay-Brown, committed suicide in the Spokane County Jail after he flew into a setup and was met by DEA agents in early 2009.

                                                                                                          ---with files from Castanet News

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