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'I'm sorry, Canada,' drug mule tells judge

Bus traveller awaits sentencing for swallowing 66 cocaine-filled condoms

A man who is awaiting sentencing after admitting to swallowing 66 cocaine-filled condoms gave an emotional apology in Surrey Provincial Court Monday.

Shaking and choking back sobs, Ricardo Vasquez told Judge James Sutherland he “didn’t have a choice” when he agreed to try and smuggle the drugs across the border.

It was “something I didn’t want to do,” the Mexican man said from the prisoner’s dock. “I embarrassed myself with what I did. I didn’t have a choice. I just want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Canada.”

Vasquez, 35, pleaded guilty Jan. 30 to importing cocaine. He 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.

In March, the court heard how Vasquez had told the officers he was travelling from Chicago, Ill. to Whistler to see a friend.

Then, Vasquez changed his story, explaining he was travelling from Guadalajara and that he had said Chicago because he thought it would make it easier to enter the country.

Suspicions were further raised because he had two cellphones, one of which had a text message that suggested a plan to import drugs.

Vasquez admitted to swallowing 20 pellets, then excreted 66 over the course of three days.

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

The sentencing hearing was adjourned so lawyers could research whether Sutherland should give weight to parole eligibility in deciding a penalty, given Vasquez’s lack of status in Canada.

“The Crown’s position is that the… short answer is no,” federal prosecutor James Whiting said Monday.

Vasquez’s lawyer, Evi dos Santos, disagreed, arguing his client’s lack of access to parole should be a mitigating factor.

If Vasquez qualifies for early parole, he has nowhere to go, dos Santos said.

“It’s a bigger chunk of time here he will stay in custody under immigration laws because of his status,” he said. “He’s in limbo. He’s not even admitted to Canada.”

Whiting and dos Santos disagreed on how Vasquez’s time in custody should be applied to the sentence, with dos Santos arguing he should be credited for time served at 1½.

Dos Santos described his client’s crime as “an act of desperation.”

“Desperate people, they make very stupid decisions,” he said, noting Vasquez has “paid a large price” for his.

“He thought he was helping his family. He (now) doesn’t know where his wife is, he doesn’t know how his son is.”

Whiting noted that there is “absolutely no evidence” that proves Vasquez’s son was ill at the time of the crime.

In reserving his decision, Sutherland told Vasquez he needed “a few weeks” to consider everything he’d heard.

“I know it’s tough sitting there waiting, but that’s the best I can do,” he said.

A date for the decision was to be set Tuesday morning.


Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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