Alleged cross-border drug trafficking off San Juan Island | Update

Two men allegedly involved in a rash of drug trafficking over a year ago off the coast of San Juan Island are facing charges and sentencing.

In open waters south of San Juan Island, two boaters allegedly trafficked illegal drugs into Canada from around December 2016 to February 2017. A Washington state man admitted to giving cocaine and methamphetamine to a Canadian man, who allegedly transported them over the border by vessel, according to U.S. court documents.

Gary Todd Horton of Olympia, Washington has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally exporting drugs to Canada and faces sentencing this September, according to a public affairs official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

William Milton Barnes of Saanich, British Columbia, is facing 11 charges related to importing and trafficking illegal narcotics into Canada, according to a press release by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Horton’s plea agreement from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington states that Horton met Barnes’ boat south of San Juan Island, on Feb. 23, 2017, and gave Barnes dry bags filled with cocaine and methamphetamine.

After the exchange, Horton’s Boston Whaler powerboat was boarded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to court documents, a drug detection dog smelled narcotics and officers found a receipt for dry bags.

Horton was arrested by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations agents when he docked at the Cornet Bay Marina near Deception Pass, where agents say he admitted to transporting illegal narcotics.

When Barnes docked in Victoria, he was also arrested.

The RCMP press release states that the following were seized from Barnes: “over 55 kilograms of cocaine, over 47 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, over 1 kilogram of heroin, 15 firearms including five handguns, a prohibited large capacity magazine, over $150,000 in cash and two high-speed vessels.”

Horton has only pleaded guilty to exporting cocaine and methamphetamine.

According to U.S. Court documents, on Dec. 15, 2016, Horton also admitted that he met Barnes for roughly five minutes while on their boats, about four nautical miles south of San Juan Island. When Barnes returned to Victoria, the court documents state that Canadian officials observed Barnes unload dry bags from his boat.

Court documents state that Horton admitted he was paid $50,000 for the Feb. 23, 2017, transaction, and tens of thousands of dollars for other smuggling trips. He also admitted to trafficking drugs on two other occasions, but they are not detailed in Horton’s guilty plea from the courts.

San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs said his office was not involved in the investigation or arrests, but deputies regularly make local patrols on the water and work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard on drug trafficking cases.

“We’re on the water all the time,” said Krebs.

According to the RCMP, the arrests were made using a cross-border program, called Operation Shiprider, which includes the ongoing efforts of agencies such as the RCMP, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Contributed photo/Royal Canadian Mounted Police                                Items seized from the alleged Canadian smuggler.

Contributed photo/Royal Canadian Mounted Police Items seized from the alleged Canadian smuggler.