Man who mistakenly crossed U.S. border with $80,000 cash gets conditional sentence
A man who crossed the U.S. border from Stewart, B.C. into Hyder, Alaska with $80,000 cash in a bag covered up by a blanket and then lied to a customs officer about it will spend his sentence in the community.
Benjamin Fromme, 28, will spend three months on a conditional sentence order with conditions and pay a fine of $2,500 as ordered by Judge Calvin Struyk in provincial court here March 12.
When asked by Struyk if he had anything to say, Fromme apologized to the court.
“I realize I made a terrible mistake. At the time, I was under financial hardship and saw an easy way to make a quick couple of bucks, and to say I haven't paid for it is an understatement,” said Fromme.
“I'm sorry for what I did. I'd also like the court to know I didn't dishonour the Bible I swore on. Every word [of testimony] was the truth and to think I haven't paid the price so far is not accurate...You'll never be seeing me here again.”
Just after 2 a.m., Nov. 6, 2010, the Canadian Border Services Agency officer at the Canada customs office on the border between Hyder, Alaska and Stewart, B.C. saw a vehicle drive past into Hyder, stop briefly, then turn around and attempt to re-enter Canada, court heard.
The driver told the customs officer he had got lost on his way to Smithers and needed directions to get there, court heard.
When asked, he told her he was going to Smithers to buy quad ATV vehicles and repeated that he was lost and needed directions, court heard.
When asked if he'd purchased anything in Hyder or if he had any currency in excess of $10,000 with him or coming into the country afterward, he said no and that he thought he only had $100 or so, court heard.
In the vehicle, the customs officer found a blanket covering a bag that had stacks of money in it and the number $80,000 written in gold print on it, so the officer asked him again how much money there was, court heard.
He said more than $10,000, court heard.
She placed him under arrest, handcuffed him and told him it was for failing to properly declare the money as required.
The customs officer continued the search of the car and found the money amounted to nearly $80,000, including U.S. currency.
During his trial, while giving his testimony, Fromme said because of his financial problems, when a close personal friend offered to pay him $2,500 for carrying $80,000 from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory where Fromme lives, to Smithers, B.C. he accepted, said Struyk in reviewing the circumstances before sentencing.
Fromme suspected the money he was carrying to be from marijuana trafficking, court heard.
He had a piece of paper in his wallet with the phone number of a contact person, which he ate when stopped by a Canadian customs officer on his way back into B.C., court heard.
“Based on the evidence, I have no difficulty [believing] Mr. Fromme knew the money he was transporting came from narcotics,” said Struyk.
Fromme had no intention to leave the country when he set out from the Yukon; however, he did choose to participate in, and benefit from, the illegal narcotics trade by transporting money and he is intelligent, articulate and capable of assessing the risk, said Struyk.
The circumstances occurred through a set of errors including missing the turnoff to Smithers and ending up in Stewart, crossing an international border into the U.S. and then lying to a Canadian customs officer, said Struyk.
Fromme was not involved in narcotics otherwise, court heard.
“I certainly hope it's his last foray into narcotics,” said Struyk.
Struyk noted that Fromme had no criminal record, had been on conditions since November 2010 without any more illegal activity and had the support of his family, friends and people who employed him.