Crown appeal dismissed on $193M drug case

Saskatchewan's highest court has upheld the prison sentences given to three B.C. men in what authorities are calling the province's largest drug case.

Kingpin hoped to make $3.5 million, currently doing 18 years in prison

One kilogram of cocaine is displayed in Swift Current, Sask., in October of 2011 after a drug seizure. (RCMP Handout/CP)

Saskatchewan's highest court has upheld the prison sentences given to three B.C. men in what authorities are calling the province's largest drug case. 

On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rejected the Crown's bid to have more years added to their prison time, saying the original sentences were not "demonstrably unfit."

Brock Ernest Palfrey, Troy Ernest Swanson and William Bruce Larsen were convicted in 2012 for their roles in an organized drug trafficking ring that moved huge sums of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy pills between B.C. and the U.S., via Saskatchewan. The pills and marijuana were headed for California.

The current sentences:

Palfrey: 18 years*

Swanson: 11 years*

Larsen: 12 years*

* Each man was given credit for time spent in custody awaiting trial.

According to court documents, the total street value of the drugs was $193,800,000. The police investigations associated with the case netted only a portion of the drugs which were moved in 16 different shipments over the course of two years beginning in December of 2009.

All three men pleaded guilty to drug charges.

Palfrey, 27, was identified as the main organizer of the shipments and, according to the Crown prosecutor, stood to make around $3,500,000 from the shipments. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Swanson, also 27, was used as a courier. He was given 11 years. Larson, 52, another courier, got 12 years.

According to information provided during the trials, the couriers were being paid about $10,000 per trip.

Palfrey used a variety of methods to move the drugs across the border into Montana including snowmobiles, ATVs and pickup trucks. He also provided his couriers, mostly Canadians he recruited, with modified mobile phones that could elude police surveillance.

The Crown prosecutor on the case argued for a 25-year sentence for Palfrey and 15 years for the other two.

A joint investigation into the flow of drugs, by RCMP and American law enforcement officials, among others, determined Palfrey led a sophisticated crime ring and maintained relationships with suppliers and traffickers. The investigation led to a total of 17 people in Canada and the U.S. being charged.

The appeal court said there were some mistakes made in the prison time awarded to Palfrey for his crimes, but the net result doesn't change: an 18-year sentence.

"I conclude ... that the global sentences imposed by the sentencing judge were not demonstrably unfit," appeal court Justice Bob Richards wrote in his 40-page decision. "As a result, I would not give effect to the Crown’s request to make them more severe."

The flow of drugs:

According to court documents, the drugs moved between B.C. and the U.S. in 16 different shipments. The first shipments were in December of 2009. The last shipment was in October of 2011.

From B.C., through Saskatchewan, to the U.S.:

  • 790,000 ecstasy pills
  • 27 kilograms of marijuana

To B.C., through Saskatchewan, from the U.S.:

  • About 1325 kilograms of cocaine

Estimated street value of shipments:

  • Cocaine: $178,000,000
  • Ecstasy pills:  $15,800,000
  • Total:  $193,800,000