Sentencing for Ricardo Vasquez is now set for July 5 in Surrey Provincial Court.

Sentencing for Ricardo Vasquez is now set for July 5 in Surrey Provincial Court.

Bad news for drug mule as jail time recalculated

Recent appeal-court decision prompts Surrey judge to postpone sentencing man who pleaded guilty to swallowing 66 cocaine-filled condoms.

A B.C. Court of Appeal decision earlier this month is bad news for a man who pleaded guilty to swallowing 66 cocaine-filled condoms.

Ricardo Vasquez had been set to learn his fate Wednesday in Surrey Provincial Court for the September 2012 smuggling attempt.

Instead, Judge James Sutherland postponed imposing a penalty, citing a June 14 BCCA decision that changes how he must calculate credit for pre-trial custody, and thereby, his analysis of a sentencing issue.

“It’s not good for my client, it’s not good at all,” defence counsel Evi dos Santos told Peace Arch News, explaining the change essentially reduces the credit Vasquez may receive for time served to one-for-one from time-and-a-half.

Vasquez – a 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.

He had told border guards he was travelling from Chicago, Ill. to Whistler to see a friend, but he had no return ticket; that he then changed his story; and that he was found to be carrying two cellphones, one of which bore a text message that appeared to point to a plan to import drugs.

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

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

The court heard that the crime was motivated by a personal debt Vasquez had incurred as a result of medical bills for his young son.

In sentencing submissions, federal prosecutor James Whiting  asked Sutherland to impose a four-year jail term on Vasquez; dos Santos suggested a term of 18 months.

Last month, Vasquez apologized for his actions, telling Sutherland he “didn’t have a choice.”

Vasquez had been scheduled for sentencing on June 12, prior to the BCCA decision, but the matter was adjourned due to scheduling conflicts.

Wednesday, Sutherland told Vasquez that the latest delay was unavoidable.

The decision “directly applies to your sentence,” he said.

“I know it’s difficult being where you are and having the matter put over. It’s important that we do it right.”

Vasquez is now scheduled to be sentenced on July 5.