By Steve Guntli
A Canadian drug trafficker has been sentenced to seven years in prison for smuggling large quantities of MDMA and cocaine through the Blaine border crossing.
Phillip Cote, 52, of Vancouver, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle on June 2. Cote pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and MDMA at his trial in February, after his August 2014 arrest. Cote and a co-conspirator had trafficked drugs across the border 86 times since 2006, with a partner driving ahead in a separate car to act as lookout while the other smuggled drugs in a hidden compartment.
Cote was arrested as part of a sting operation conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On July 25, 2014, Cote entered the U.S. via the NEXUS lane at the Blaine border crossing. Once in Blaine, he supplied a contact with 20 kilograms of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, which was hidden in his trunk.
Cote struck a deal with the contact, instructing him to take the MDMA to southern California and return with 32 kilos of cocaine, which was stashed in the walls of a waiting SUV.
The contact was actually an undercover federal agent, who instructed his team to intercept the cocaine in southern California. On August 25, Cote returned to Blaine to pick up the cocaine shipment, and was arrested at the scene. He has been held in the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac since his arrest.
Brad Bench, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Seattle, said Cote had a clean police record before the arrest.
“Cote thought his clean record and trusted traveler program membership would allow him to escape scrutiny at the border,” he said. “He was mistaken. It was the HSI’s coordinated effort to detect border security violations that exposed Cote and his drug trafficking operations.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office places the street value of the recovered cocaine at roughly $1.5 million.