TACOMA — “This is not good. Get the stuff and get back in the boat.”
What wasn’t good was being spotted by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
That’s because the stuff was 547 pounds of tightly bagged, potent Canadian marijuana known as “BC bud,” authorities said.
Two Canadian nationals were caught unloading it from a boat near Clallam Bay at about 1:20 a.m. May 31, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent’s account of what occurred the night of the men’s capture following a 1.5-mile, high-speed boat chase.
Agent Peter Gomez’s recollection is included in the federal indictment against Kyle Grayson Gadsby, 25, and Colin Charles Crowe, 26, both of Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
Gadsby and Crowe said the marijuana did not belong to them, according to the indictment.
In brief appearances over the past 1 ½ weeks, the two pleaded not guilty in federal district court in Tacoma to conspiracy to import a controlled substance — Crowe on June 22 and Gadsby on Friday.
Their trial was set for 9 a.m. Aug. 24 in federal district court in Tacoma.
The maximum penalty is life imprisonment and a $4 million fine.
The night they were arrested, Crowe and Gadsby told authorities they were promised $5,000 each to transport the marijuana to a designated beach in the United States.
Crowe said he knew the large bags contained marijuana, according to the indictment.
Gadsby said he knew they included “some sort of drugs.”
The men said they were told to contact someone unknown to them by radio for help in locating the drop-off point for the estimated $1 million to $2 million worth of marijuana.
But before they completely unloaded the haul, they were spotted by Gomez.
It was unclear from the indictment where Gomez was at the time he spotted the two.
The boat was parked on the beach at Milepost 35 of state Highway 112 near Clallam Bay, Gomez said.
One man was in the boat, while the other was in the water next to it, according to the indictment.
Several large, dark packages that were in the boat appeared to be illuminated when Gomez trained his flashlight inside the vessel, the indictment said.
Other packages were already on the beach, the agent said.
“Based on my training and experience, I know that large packages like Crowe and Gadsby possessed are commonly used for storing marijuana being smuggled into the United States from Canada,” he said.
After one of the men told the other to retrieve the marijuana and get in the boat, Gomez ordered them to stay where they were, according to his account.
But they jumped in the boat and headed north in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, back toward Canada, according to the indictment.
“Because Crowe and Gadsby had several visible large packages on a beach that was an easy boat ride from British Columbia and was commonly used as a landing point for smugglers, it was apparent to us that Crowe and Gadsby were assisting the smuggling of contraband — likely marijuana — into the United States from Canada,” Gomez said in the indictment.
Gadsby told authorities that shortly after he arrived at the beach, he saw flashlights and heard someone yelling “stop.”
“Gadsby stated that at that time, he and Crowe decided to depart from the area,” the indictment said.
Gomez kept his flashlight pointed at the boat as the two fled northeast, Gomez said.
Customs and Border Protection marine interdiction agents were in a vessel heading south, directly at Gadsby and Crowe.
The agents said they saw the glow from Gomez’s flashlight and stopped Crowe and Gadsby 1.5 miles from where the two fled and about 40 minutes after they were spotted, according to the indictment.
“Gadsby stated that while traveling back toward Canada in the vessel, he saw flashing lights heading in his direction,” the indictment said.
“Gadsby stated that upon seeing the flashing lights, Crowe began throwing the packages of marijuana overboard.
Gadsby stated that after throwing the packages overboard, he and Crowe were encountered and arrested by police.”
The two were taken into custody and transported to shore aboard a Customs and Border Protection vessel.
They were handed over to Border Patrol agents at Pillar Point, near Highway 112 at about Milepost 30, about five miles east from where they were first spotted.
The two were then taken to the ICE office at the Richard B. Anderson Federal Building in Port Angeles before being incarcerated at the Clallam County jail about a half-mile away.
Between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. — about four hours after Gadsby’s and Crowe’s arrest — authorities found eight large packages weighing about 68 pounds.
The packages were wrapped in black plastic and bound with silver duct tape.
Inside the bags was high-grade “BC bud,” according to the indictment.
Crowe is in ICE custody.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle did not know Gadsby’s custody status late Friday afternoon.
________Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at [email protected]