Helicopter pilot pleads guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana | U.S. District Court

A Canadian helicopter pilot who flew loads of drugs into the U.S. from Canada for organized criminal groups pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle, just hours before he was to go on trial. Henry Rosenau, 61, of Armstrong, British Columbia, Canada pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import marijuana.  The crime carries a mandatory minimum five year prison term, and up to 40 years in prison.  Rosenau will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman on October 5, 2012.

Rosenau was identified in Operation Frozen Timber.  The 2005 investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) identified organized criminal groups smuggling B.C. Bud marijuana by helicopter south from Canada into the U.S., and smuggling cocaine north into Canada.  In his plea agreement, Rosenau admits that between 2000 and 2005 he flew dozens of loads of marijuana into forested areas in Western and Eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana.  Rosenau also flew Canadians across the border into the U.S. to work as offloaders and transporters for the drug loads.  From the Pacific Northwest the drugs were transported across the U.S.  Rosenau was first contacted by Canadian law enforcement in 2005 as he returned to Canada after delivering a load.  In the cockpit of the helicopter the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found a loaded handgun, night vision goggles, two satellite telephones, and a GPS device with known landing sites used by the marijuana traffickers.  Video from the ‘Frozen Timber’ investigation is available here:

“Rosenau and his co-conspirators thought they had the perfect plan to smuggle drugs into the United States, but obviously they were mistaken,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle.  “Treacherous terrain, remote locations and the use of aircraft didn’t shield these criminals from justice. HSI is relentless in its pursuit of smugglers – where they go, HSI will be on their trail.”

Since his indictment in May 2006, Rosenau had vigorously fought extradition from Canada and had filed lawsuits in Canada against witnesses, law enforcement and prosecutors to try to derail the prosecution.  As part of his plea agreement, Rosenau will dismiss those lawsuits and he admits they were frivolous.

More than 40 people were indicted in connection with Operation Frozen Timber.  During the course of the operation, U.S. and Canadian enforcement teams intercepted more than 17 drug loads, including one shipment in February 2005 involving five suitcases packed with 169 kilograms of cocaine.  Authorities say the defendants planned to use a helicopter to smuggle the cocaine from a landing site in the Okanogan National Forest to British Columbia.  Another significant seizure in the case came in September 2005, when agents followed two courier vehicles to a Puyallup residence and recovered more than 1,200 pounds of marijuana.

Operation Frozen Timber was conducted under the auspices of the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET), a multi-agency law enforcement team comprised of representatives from Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies.  Members of the IBET work together with local, state, and provincial enforcement agencies to target cross-border criminal activity, including investigations involving national security and organized crime.  Additional assistance was provided by U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations.

Rosenau was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Susan Roe and Marc Perez.

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