Gun smuggling costs American at Osoyoos border

Bringing loaded handgun into Canada has cost an American man both the firearm and a $7,500 fine.

Trying to sneak a loaded handgun into Canada has cost an American man both the firearm and a $7,500 fine.

A lawyer for Cole Reid Phillips, 21, pleaded guilty on his behalf Monday in provincial court in Penticton to the criminal offence of possession of a restricted weapon and the Customs Act offence of smuggling.

Court heard Phillips, a student from Phoenix, Ariz., was pulled aside for secondary inspection on July 21 while attempting to cross into Canada by car at Osoyoos.

Phillips told a Canada Border Services Agency officer he had ammunition in his vehicle, but not a gun, which raised suspicions, said Crown counsel Ashleigh Baylis.

The secondary inspection then turned up a loaded .45-calibre handgun and two magazines in the glove box of his car.

Baylis said Phillips later told CBSA officers that attitudes towards guns “are different in Arizona. It’s a different mentality.”

While Phillips faced a fine of up to $50,000 or six months in jail, Baylis suggested the minimal effort taken to hide the weapon was a mitigating factor for the judge to consider.

“It’s not a situation where he was driving a vehicle with a concealed department,” Baylis said, noting that Phillips nonetheless lied to officers at first.

Defence counsel Don Skogstad, who told the court his client wasn’t allowed into Canada to attend court, said Phillips was en route to Whistler for a hastily arranged mountain biking trip at the time and didn’t think to leave his gun at home.

In addition to the $7,500 fine imposed by Judge Greg Koturbash, Phillips is also liable for a $750 victim fine surcharge, bringing the total to $8,250.

When it announced his arrest in July, CBSA also noted Phillips was required to pay $1,500 for the return of his car, which was seized while he spent one night in custody while awaiting a bail hearing.

Skogstad said the $8,250 is being held in trust by his office and the fines will be paid in full.