Two Amherstburg, Ont., men arrested in connection with an international drug ring have escaped further time behind bars in Michigan.
Matthew Moody, 32, and Jesse Rusenstrom, 20, have struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against other members of the Toronto-based drug traffickers in exchange for a sentence of time served plus five years probation. The two men were originally facing a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
They pleaded guilty in June of last year. Assistant U.S. attorney Wayne Pratt asked for the light sentence, and the judge even told the two they were "lucky."
They provided valuable information to authorities about other members of the drug ring despite serious threats to themselves and their families, said Pratt. The U.S. attorney's office is now looking to extradite four other Canadians to the States. A fifth man has already appeared in court.
"The judge simply imposed an obligation on them since they had cooperated and testified in the trial of this one co-conspirator," said Pratt. "They need to continue their cooperation, whether that's testimony in Canadian proceedings or testimony in American courts."
The pair was arrested at a rural airport in Michigan in November 2009 after they tried to outrun a Blackhawk helicopter in their car full of drugs. They unloaded $10 million of cocaine onto a plane, and took another $8 million in drugs and placed it in the vehicle. Authorities caught the group on video making the exchange.
The ring was flying marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs back and forth between the U.S. and Canada.
"Mr. Rusenstrom and Mr. Moody were kind of at the lowest level of this organization if you would, because they simply had to meet the planes, deliver the drugs and cash," Pratt said. "They were directed by their controllers so to speak."
Moody and Rusenstrom have been in an American jail for the past 18 months. It could be another two months before Canadian customs clears them to return home.