Trial for Alberta Mennonite accused of smuggling coke begins today

BY SARAH BERMAN | VICE.COM

A Mennonite man accused of smuggling 16 kilos of coke across the US-Canada border in 2012 is finally in court today. Jacob Dyck is facing charges of conspiracy to import $2 million worth of cocaine and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

By now the horse-and-buggy riding blow-smuggler has essentially earned its own Heritage Moment, pushed deeper into Canadian pop culture consciousness by the CBC drama Pure. But back in 2013, when I first spoke with US Drug Enforcement Agent Jim Schrant, the idea of a “large-scale marijuana and cocaine distribution group” run by Mennonites with connections to a notorious Mexican cartel still seemed genuinely bonkers.

“We started investigating a large-scale marijuana and cocaine distribution group in 2010, which was operating out of Mexico and shipping large amounts into the United States and then subsequently to different points in Alberta,” Schrant told me at the time. “We learned there were individuals who identified as Mexican Mennonites involved in the transportation and distribution.”

Read More: Mennonites in Southern Alberta Have Connections to a Notorious Mexican Drug Cartel

Dyck is facing trial alone, after charges against co-accused Abram Klassan were stayed due to “unreasonable delay” mostly caused by Dyck’s defence. But Dyck and Klassan weren’t the only ones caught up in the DEA’s international sting.

Two other Mexican Mennonites, Hector Chavez-Anchondo and Javier Batista-Cervantes, were extradited from Calgary to the US in 2015. “This case was worked in conjunction with RCMP and other local Canadian authorities and led to further investigations/seizures by Canada into Mennonite associates in Alberta,” a DEA agent wrote to VICE in an email. Both men pleaded guilty to felony drug offences and were sentenced to four years in prison in January 2017.

Jacob Fehr was also sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014 after hauling coke from Chihuahua, Mexico into Calgary.

Credit where it’s due: the smugglers’ cover was pretty airtight. Mennonites have a history in Canada and Mexico, and migration between the two settlements has been going on since the 1920s. According to DEA intel, Mennonites were stashing massive amounts of weed and coke into “sophisticated compartments” built into farming and construction equipment.

While the trial is just beginning in Alberta, the DEA seems to have moved on from the Mennonite smuggler story, saying those cases are “resolved” and “old news” in the US.

Lead image via screencap from CBC’s Pure.

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