Drug mule Ricardo Vasquez was sentenced today in Surrey Provincial Court.

Drug mule Ricardo Vasquez was sentenced today in Surrey Provincial Court.

2½ years for ‘profoundly remorseful’ drug mule

Accused swallowed 66 cocaine-filled condoms, then boarded bus for Canada.

Ten months after he was arrested for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Canada, a man who swallowed 66 condoms containing the illicit drug was sentenced to an additional 20 months in custody for the crime.

In imposing the penalty on Ricardo Vasquez in Surrey Provincial Court Friday, Judge James Sutherland said he’d heard no evidence to support that Vasquez was anything more than a courier in the operation.

At the same time, he wasn’t convinced Vasquez’s involvement in the “very serious” crime was spontaneous.

“There had to have been at least some degree of premeditation on the part of Mr. Vasquez,” Sutherland said.

Vasquez – a 36-year-old resident of Mexico who was born in the U.S. – has been in custody since Sept. 7, after border guards at the Pacific Highway crossing in South Surrey became suspicious of information provided by Vasquez, who was a passenger on a northbound bus.

A first-time visitor to Canada, he initially told border guards he was travelling from Chicago, Ill. to Whistler to see a friend, but he had no return ticket; then he said he was travelling from Mexico via Chicago. He was also found to be carrying two cellphones, one of which bore a text message that appeared to point to a plan to import drugs, the court heard.

During monitoring in a “drug loo” at Vancouver airport, Vasquez admitted to swallowing “about 20 pellets,” then began excreting them about 30 minutes later.

The balance of the 66 pellets – a total 725 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of just over $25,000 – were collected at Richmond Hospital over the next two days.

In sentencing submissions, federal prosecutor James Whiting had asked Sutherland to impose a four-year sentence on Vasquez. Defence counsel Evi dos Santos asked either for time served, or for additional time to be in the form of a conditional sentence.

Sutherland said Friday that he considered three key issues in sentencing: if Vasquez had proven his motive for the crime, which the court heard was to repay a debt incurred as a result of medical bills for his young son; if his immigration status in Canada, or lack of, should affect the penalty; and, if Vasquez should be given “enhanced” credit for the time he has already spent in custody.

Regarding the latter, Sutherland said a recent B.C. Court of Appeal ruling means enhanced credit – awarding two days’ credit for every one day spent in pre-sentence custody – can only be justified if an offender can prove he or she has been subjected to hardship, segregated or otherwise onerous conditions while awaiting sentencing.

In deciding against awarding Vasquez enhanced credit, Sutherland noted he has “taken full advantage” of rehabilitative programs available to him and even earned an income as cleaner while incarcerated.

Sutherland said he did not consider immigration consequences relevant, given that Vasquez was never admitted to Canada and that he was “not satisfied” that Vasquez had proven he was motivated by a desperate need to help his infant son.

Prescriptions submitted for the boy’s treatment were dated “over five months past the offence date,” Sutherland said, and no proof the boy was hospitalized was produced.

While Sutherland acknowledged Vasquez was “profoundly remorseful” for his actions, he said the gravity of the offence cannot be downplayed.

“Cocaine is not indigenous to Canada. Consequently, it can only enter Canada through importers like Mr. Vasquez,” he said.

Any sympathies for Vasquez’s circumstances “must be subordinate to the need to protect society.”

In addition to the 2½-year jail term, Sutherland imposed a 10-year firearms prohibition, ordered the forfeiture of all items seized from Vasquez and ordered him to provide a DNA sample.

“Mr. Vasquez, I have no doubt that this has been very difficult for you,” Sutherland told the prisoner at the conclusion of his reasons. “You will get through it, and then you can move on.”

Vasquez’s lawyer said outside court that his client was “very lucky” to receive the sentence he did, noting another of his clients who was caught trying to smuggle crystal meth into the U.S. was recently handed a five-year term. Vasquez roomed with that individual, he said.

Dos Santos said that given his client’s lack of status in Canada, he will likely serve two-thirds of the remaining sentence, then be immediately deported.

Whiting said Sutherland “certainly made every effort to balance all of the factors he should in coming to his decision.”

 

Just Posted

A Grade 8 class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
B.C.’s return-to-school plan good, but Surrey teachers hope there is room for adjustments

Surrey school district to receive $1.76M of the $25.6M provincial pandemic-related funding

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Pier has reportedly been unused for a long time

A mixed-use development with 69 market rental units and 10 commercial units is proposed for the 2300-block of King George Boulevard. (Thinkspace rendering)
Pair of South Surrey apartment proposals move forward

Council gives third reading to rezoning applications for market-rental and residential projects

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read