'Extreme' Drug Ring Used Helicopters, Snow Mobiles To Traffic Drugs

By Seth Ferranti 06/14/16

 To avoid detection the smugglers would make their own trails through the wilderness by foot, snow mobile and air.

'Extreme' Drug Ring Used Helicopters, Snow Mobiles To Traffic Drugs

A recent case from Seattle brings to mind movies like XXX, Point Break and The Fast and the Furious.

Last Friday, a Canadian man from British Columbia (BC) was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for being a part of a drug ring that used helicopters, hikers and snowmobiles to smuggle cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana across the border into the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington charged Sean William Doak, 42, and several accomplices for operating the smuggling venture from 2007 to 2009.

BC bud would make the journey down to the states through heavily forested areas along the border of Washington state and Canada, and cocaine would be sent back up through a source from Los Angeles. To avoid detection, the smugglers would make their own trails through the wilderness by foot, snowmobile and air, using extreme sport techniques to overcome the elements.

“When BC bud was in its heyday back then, a lot of this type of stuff was going on,” Danny, a retired French-Canadian drug smuggler who served multiple terms in U.S. prisons, tells The Fix. “From the '90s on, this was happening. Outdoorsy-types of guys knew about the routes and introduced them to weed growers and a partnership was born.”

With all the heat on the southern border, loads have been going across the northern border like this for years. At the U.S.’s forgotten border—4,000 miles of frontier-like land—drug interdiction agents fight the drug war on ice. A Canadian was even busted for attempting to smuggle pills over the border on a sled in January. Only in Canada, it seems.

“I know guys that have skied drugs across,” Danny says. “Just a backpack full of kind bud and a set of cross country skis. You gotta have a lot of nerve and some skills to navigate the terrain, but it can be done. I preferred to drive a truck myself, but lots of pilots and winter sports guys get a buzz by adding that extra element of carrying drugs while they’re already doing something extreme.”

A pilot on the Doak case even committed suicide while in custody rather than serve his time. The thought of being locked up in a cage was seemingly too much for the free-spirited drug smuggler who got his kicks from ferrying loads of weed across the border in a low-flying helicopter. And as long as there’s money to be made, these extreme sports smuggling episodes will continue. It may seem like a movie, but it’s real life. Just another chapter in the chronicles of the drug war.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.