British Columbia

Link between helicopter pilot and owner probed

A drug-filled helicopter piloted by a man who hanged himself in a U.S. prison last month is owned by a B.C. man who has himself been convicted of smuggling drugs.
Colin Martin said he knew Samuel Brown personally. (CBC)

A drug-filled helicopter piloted by a man who hanged himself in a U.S. prison last month is owned by a B.C. man who has himself been convicted of smuggling drugs.

Colin Martin, 37, of Sicamous, B.C., reported his helicopter missing last month after Samuel Brown, 24, flew it — as well as ecstasy and nearly 200 kilograms of B.C. bud — to a remote landing pad in northern Washington.

"[The helicopter] was reported stolen and in actuality, we don't believe it was stolen," said Arnold Moorin, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge of the case.

Martin reported his chopper missing on Feb. 25, two days after Brown was caught and arrested for allegedly being part of a cross-border drug-smuggling operation.

Two days after Martin filed the missing helicopter report, Brown hanged himself with bedsheets in the Spokane County jail.

RCMP, who are investigating in co-operation with U.S. officials, refused to comment on the connection between Brown and Martin.

Martin knew Brown personally

But Martin told the Revelstoke Times, the newspaper in Brown's hometown, that he knew Brown personally.

"If Sam does have something to do with this, it's very out of character from the Sam that I know. My heart goes out to Sam's family; we're all reeling from this," he told the newspaper.

Martin received a 2½-year prison sentence in Canada in 2007 for his part in an operation that smuggled thousands of kilograms of marijuana into the U.S. using snowmobiles and aircraft.

"Mr. Martin clearly had a major, if not the major, role in the organization," the judge who sentenced him said at the time.

A property search done by CBC News found that Martin, who runs a lumber mill, owns five snowmobiles and at least three helicopters.

Brown's father, Lou, told the Nelson Daily News last week that his son was used as a pawn in the cross-border drug deal and that he took the fall for somebody else.

Including Brown, eight people were arrested and now seven face charges in connection with the alleged drug-smuggling operation. One of the remaining seven is from Kelowna, B.C.

Police seized about 340 kilograms of marijuana, 83 kilograms of cocaine and 240,000 ecstasy tablets, plus a significant amount of cash, guns, two helicopters and other equipment in busts in Washington and Idaho, the Drug Enforcement Administration and RCMP said at a joint news conference in Seattle on Tuesday morning.