The trial for a woman who allegedly brought 10 bricks of cocaine across the Osoyoos border started on Monday in Penticton.
Andrea Ernst, from the Vernon area, was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and importing a controlled substance for an incident that took place in 2009.
Protected by Canadian law as a witness giving evidence, Ernst’s ex-common law husband Andreas Artz took the stand on Tuesday, laying out how he planted the drugs.
Artz, under the questioning of defence counsel Robert Maxwell, confirmed he had set up Ernst to be the unwitting drug mule. The court heard that he invited Ernst, who had been in Saltspring Island, to meet with him and their daughter in Lynden, Wash. for lunch before heading back to the Okanagan. The daughter was attending a Brittany Spears concert and had been reconciling differences with Ernst. Maxwell painted Artz as a man with a grudge because Ernst had left him after 20 years for a horse trainer who Artz called a “crack addict” from the stand.
Artz said he met Ernst at a strip mall and told her to drive with him to lunch. It was during this time Artz called associates who brought the drugs and planted them inside a storage compartment in the back seats of her truck. Artz told the court he had trafficked drugs across the border three to five times before and was expecting a $5,000 payment for this trip.
On Monday, a Canadian Border Services officer told Supreme Court Justice Paul Pearlman that on April 8, 2009 a grey Dodge pickup truck came up to her booth around 9:20 p.m. at the Osoyoos port attempting to cross the border into Canada.
Officer Lindsey Frey said a “red box” for secondary inspection appeared on her computer screen after the truck’s plates and the driver’s identification were scanned. The officer said the notification was a lookout for narcotics.
“Usually we have some kind of intelligence that indicates we need to look at the person more in-depth. All I knew from the lookout was this person was to be further examined and we were looking for drugs,” said Frey.
Border Services officer Cecilia Silva said she and another officer conducted the secondary search of the vehicle and while she was looking at a backseat compartment she found something unusual.
“I peaked through with my flashlight and saw something metallic and shiny,” said Silva, who pulled out the item and immediately recognized it as something she had seen in training as possibly a brick of narcotics. “It had duct tape on it, so I took my knife and cut a bit into it and a crystally looking white powder came out.”
Crown counsel Clarke Burnett told the court that the bricks weighed just over one kilogram each and had a street value of about $800,000.
The trial is expected to finish on Wednesday.