UTICA -- A St. Regis Falls man has been sentenced in federal court to a year and a day in prison for possession with intent to distribute 124 pounds of marijuana, according to the prosecutor.
Eric C. Wilson, 23, was sentenced on June 8 in Utica by United States District Judge David N. Hurd to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, announced United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge James Spero.
Wilson pled guilty to the charge on Jan. 25. After sentencing he was released until July 16, when he must report to prison.
On Jan. 28, 2010, officers of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police (United States) and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service (Canada) saw a car driven by Wilson cross from the United States into Canada and then back through an unguarded and unmarked border crossing on the Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern New York.
A detective sergeant of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police who was cross-designated as a “customs officer” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) found the car, followed it with another police officer, and then stopped it. Officers searched the car and found three large hockey bags with a total of 124.544 pounds of marijuana in the trunk.
Judge Hurd, in U.S. District Court, suppressed the evidence based upon a finding that the sergeant stopped the car beyond the boundaries of the reservation, and that the sergeant failed to comply with the ICE approval procedures for the exercise of his authority as a customs officer.
The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, holding that “the stop was justified by probable cause to believe that Wilson had entered the United States in violation of law” and that the sergeant was a validly designated customs officer authorized to effect the stop, so his failure to follow an internal ICE policy did not give rise to a Fourth Amendment violation. The appeals court also held that there was probable cause to search the car for marijuana smuggled over the border.
“My office is committed to working with tribal authorities and federal law enforcement officers to stop smugglers from using the Mohawk territory to bring drugs into our communities,” said United States Attorney Hartunian.
“This case illustrates how tribal authorities, federal law enforcement officers, and Canadian agencies all collaborate to ensure that there are no gaps in law enforcement coverage on and around the Mohawk territory,” Hartunian said.
The case was investigated by the Saint Regis Mohawk Police Department, the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, the United States Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations.
It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Horsman.