As Mennonite trucker Jacob Fehr was being arrested at the Alberta-Montana border, he told police he was relieved to be in good hands.
- Alberta man gets 7 years for smuggling cocaine into Canada
- Mennonite ties to Mexican drug cartels years in the making
The Coutts border crossing guards had just torn $200,000 worth of Mexican drug cartel cocaine from his Pacifica wagon.
It was January 2011. With his wife and four daughters in tow, Fehr had driven up from Chihuahua state where he had grown up.
He had planned to head for his now-hometown of Peace River, Alta., and later drop the drugs off in Calgary.
Fehr told investigators he was a mule for a cartel, and that they had threatened his family. He said he believed running drugs across two borders wasn't a choice.
Found guilty by judge
In the end, a Calgary judge didn't believe Fehr's duress defence. He was found guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking and importing cocaine and sentenced last week to seven years in prison.
The story Fehr told Justice Glen Poleman from the witness box when he testified in his own defence was like something from a screenplay.
Fehr's said his troubles began six years before while he and his family were still living in Chihuahua and his corn crop was failing.
It was supposed to be a loan between neighbours. Jesus Cruz handed over $30,000 and told Fehr — a farmer since leaving school to work with his father at age 13 — chilli was a better bet.
For two years, the father of four tended to the chilli plants. It became clear there had been others in on the original loan. Armed men in "fancy cars" would periodically show up to "check" the crop.
Not happy with its progress, and sensing his "business partners" were even more concerned, Cruz told Fehr he better pay back his loan — and fast. The farm equipment Fehr sold barely covered half of his debt.
Farmer moved to Alberta in 2007
The one-time farmer told the judge he moved to northern Alberta in 2007. Once he had established himself in the province by getting a job as a trucker and saving some money, Fehr says he returned to Chihuahua to repay the debt in 2009.
There though, he says he was told to forget about the debt. The creditors wanted Fehr to make three trips to Alberta with his car packed with drugs.
Fehr was ordered to leave his unlocked car with the armed men. Once it was returned, he drove to Canada with his family, crossing two international borders. Then he would receive a text when he was safely in Alberta.
A Best Western in Calgary was his next order:
"Get a good night sleep, leave the car unlocked with the keys under the mat."
Caught on 3rd trip
The trips happened successfully in the spring of 2009 and again a year later in 2010. Fehr's wife and four daughters were with him each time.
For his third, and what he claimed to be final trip, the Fehr family returned to Chihuahua to visit family for Christmas in 2010. When they returned in January, border guards discovered the packages of pure cocaine.
Fehr admitted that he returned to Mexico by his own free will several times, buying land, betting on horse races and visiting family. Fehr seemed to have no fear when it came to the men he said threatened to kill him and his family.
Crown prosecutor Frank Polak successfully argued Fehr's defence of duress was false.
"He took his family down on a number of occasions," said Polak, "Based on the fact that the evidence showed at trial that he was purchasing land down there, all that did not ring true."