A Mexican drug smuggler was sentenced to jail time Friday for bringing over $500,000 worth of drugs across the Canadian/U.S. border under threat of death from a Mexican cartel.
Alexis Joel Garcia Palomino, 24, pleaded guilty to the unlawful importation of heroin and methamphetamine and failing to enter Canada at the customs office.
Garcia Palomino was an illegal immigrant in the U.S., Crown said, employed by the Mexican cartel for some time according to the pre-sentence report. Federal Crown counsel Ginger Holmes said Garcia Palomino would make anywhere between $500 and $1,000 for smuggling runs to Canada and his family and himself were under threat of death — included the purported killing of his stepfather according to a letter defence counsel Bob Maxwell provided from the Consulate of Mexico.
Maxwell took issue with the wording of the pre-sentence report, noting his client never used the threat of death from the cartels as an excuse for his actions.
“He claims his life and his family’s life was threatened and he never told the probation officer that he uses this as an excuse to justify his behaviour,” Maxwell said. “That’s the word of the probation officer, that’s his or her opinion. None of us know if reincarnation is what awaits us in the next life, coming back, but I don’t think this probation officer would like to come back as Mexican poor national with a Grade 1 education.”
“This mistake is one made a number of years ago when out of desperation he became associated with the cartel in Mexico. Why did he do it? $500 to $1,000, and the bonus is if you don’t cooperate they’ll kill your family,” Maxwell said.
The estimated amount the drugs are worth at wholesale is $689,000 according to Crown.
Maxwell noted that he couldn’t file into evidence any of the many documentaries on the violence of Mexican drug cartels, but said “it’s common sense and common knowledge that the latest drug cartel operator was a billionaire and ordered over 2,000 executions.”
“Once you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a dime,” Maxwell said.
Judge Gail Sinclair agreed it was a tragic situation all around.
“It appears, from the information I have, that he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t,” said Sinclair while passing down his sentence in Penticton Provincial Court on Dec. 2.
On March 17, the RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime Section received a call from U.S. Border Patrol advising an individual was carrying a backpack and walking north towards Nine Mile Place and Highway 3E east of Osoyoos. Around 12:41 a.m. RCMP responded along with a police dog unit using infrared vision devices where they located Garcia Palomino.
Garcia Palomino fled southbound wearing a camouflage jacket, pants and toque toward the Canada/U.S. border and was eventually caught and arrested. Upon being told he was under arrest, Garcia Palomino advised he did not speak English.
Police remained in the area waiting for daylight and conducted a search which turned up a backpack found under a tree eight feet away from where Garcia Palomino was arrested. In the backpack police found 1,022 grams of heroin packaged in two large cellophane bricks, and six bricks of methamphetamine totalling 5,089.7 grams. Two knives with 10-inch blades and night vision goggles were also located.
It’s unclear what his immigration status will be upon Garcia Palomino’s release, however he expressed in court, through a Spanish-English translator, a desire to remain in Canada.
“The answer is, I don’t know,” Maxwell said of Garcia Palomino’s national status upon his release, noting it would likely be an issue for the Consulate of Mexico.
Garcia Palomino was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail, 390 days of which he has served in pre-trial custody including pre-trial credit. Garcia Palomino has just under 2.5 years remaining on his sentence.