When police pulled over Douglas Spink in February as he drove along U.S. 2 in Monroe with 372 pounds of cocaine stuffed in his suitcases, they knew they’d intercepted the bankrupt Canadian businessman on his way to an important appointment.
It turns out the arrest also was key in dismantling an international ring that engaged in trading illicit commodities across the U.S.-Canada border.
Spink was part of a group that swapped large amounts of cocaine for hundreds of pounds of potent “B.C. bud” marijuana grown in Canada, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The coke went north. The marijuana went south. People involved traded drugs valued in the millions of dollars.
They are now starting to go to jail.
Spink, 34, last week pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. His sentencing is set for early October. The charge carries a presumptive minimum 10-year sentence.
Still awaiting trial is the group’s alleged business manager, Robert V. Kesling, 26, of Woodinville.
Evidence shows Kesling “is part of a very substantial drug trafficking organization with active ties to Mexico and Canada, and that Kesling plays a managerial role in that enterprise,” assistant U.S. attorneys Ronald Friedman and Susan Roe said in court papers filed in Kesling’s arrest in May.
Kesling’s trial is set for November. He’s pleaded not guilty to five federal drug felonies, including conspiracy to import marijuana and export cocaine.
When federal investigators searched a cargo trailer owned by Kesling the day after Spink’s arrest, they found 452 pounds of British Columbia-grown pot with a street value of $1 million, according to court papers.
Kesling has been a focus of government interest since he was stopped in October 2002 at the Blaine border crossing. The Honda he was driving was seized after a search turned up a hidden compartment investigators believed could be used for smuggling drugs or cash.
In 2003, an informant working with agents from the federal Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told investigators that Kesling claimed to be receiving 100-pound shipments of high-grade Canadian pot, which he paid for with cocaine smuggled across the border. The pot reportedly was being resold in Las Vegas and elsewhere at up to $2,400 a pound.
“Kesling discussed how much he was paying for the cocaine, and how much profit he was making by trading the cocaine for marijuana,” according to a sworn affidavit filed with the court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent James Harris.
Investigators believe Spink was a drug transporter for Kesling. On the day of his arrest, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents trailed Spink to Everett from the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Sumas.
They watched Spink in an Everett parking lot pick up the cocaine, which had an estimated street value of $34 million.
The drugs allegedly were brought to the meeting by Wesley Kenneth Cornett, 27, of Shoreline. Cornett also has been negotiating a plea agreement, according to court papers.
The drug cache pulled from the SUV that Spink was driving is believed to be the largest cocaine haul in county history.
In the late 1990s, Spink made headlines in Portland, Ore., where he was known as a self-made millionaire who specialized in high-risk business ventures and extreme sports, especially parachuting from cliffs, bridges, tall buildings and radio towers.
Spink’s businesses collapsed in bankruptcy and allegations of fraud. In recent years, he had been living in Chilliwack, B.C., and breeding jumping horses.
After his arrest, federal agents secretly recorded his alleged partners blaming Spink for messing up their operation.
Kesling reportedly was recorded saying how upset higher-ups in the organization were about the bust. He allegedly said he had to go to Mexico to deal with the heat.
“Those guys are so mad, man,” Kesling allegedly said. “They’re like, ‘What the (expletive) were you guys doing in a (expletive) parking lot?’ and I’m like ‘Buddy, (Spink) wouldn’t come to a spot. He wouldn’t come to the same spot twice.’ “
Kesling reportedly said Spink was three days behind schedule in picking up the cocaine.
“I had no idea he was coming from Canada,” Kesling allegedly said. “I thought he was coming from Portland. And what the (expletive) are we doing meeting in Everett?”
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.