West Kelowna drug smuggler sentenced to 14 years

The West Kelowna man who attempted to smuggle 97 kilograms of cocaine into Canada was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in prison.

The West Kelowna man who attempted to smuggle 97 kilograms of cocaine into Canada through a fruit grinding machine was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in prison.

Clifford Montgomery, 37, was taken into custody after Justice Alison Beames rendered her decision Wednesday, leaving a visibly shaken contingent of friends and family behind.

They had likely been hoping Beames would have found weight in Montgomery’s lawyer’s sentencing submission, and only handed down a prison term of eight to ten years.

Beames, however, didn’t agree that Montgomery was amongst a group of “stumblebums” and had no leadership role in the failed scheme to bring nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine into Canada from Argentina, through a 2,400 kg industrial fruit grinder.

“Mr. Montgomery had a very senior role in the importation on the Canadian side,” said Beames.

Beames pointed out that wiretap evidence clearly indicated that Montgomery was giving directions, not receiving them.

In audio tapes he showed  knowledge of the machine and its route to Canada, he helped unload it from storage, move it to a remote property and dismantle it. Then, when it became clear that it was carrying dye and placebo, he instructed others how to dismantle the machine.

In addition to the finding that Montgomery played a leading role, Beames said she felt that he failed to show any remorse about the harm he caused to the community.

“That doesn’t bode well for deterrence,” she said, while laying out the principles of sentencing.

Montgomery accomplice Tariq Aslam was also convicted ofof conspiracy to import as well as two trafficking offences for the failed 2010 scheme. A third, Salvador Ascencio-Chavez, a 47-year-old architect from Mexico, was one of three men convicted in Kelowna of conspiracy and drug trafficking charges by BC Supreme Court judge Alison Beames.

“Mr. Ascencio-Chavez was not a kingpin or a CEO, as he was taking directions from others,” Beames said. “But his role was something more than that of a mere transporter.”

Montgomery’s lawyer Neil Cobb had argued that his client was similarly not responsible for masterminding the crime, noting that the only thing he was in charge of was  “a bunch of stumblebums on the way to the Lower Mainland.”

The grinding machine was shipped from Argentina to Kelowna in September 2010 when it was intercepted by RCMP. The street value of the drugs was estimated $3.5 million dollars.

@KelownaNewsKat