A Canadian citizen has been sentenced in federal court in San Francisco to eight and one-half years in prison for conspiring to distribute nearly 150,000 pills of the drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy, in 2008.
Henoke Teclechaimanot, 25, of Vancouver, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge on Nov. 3 and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Wednesday.
Teclechaimanot, whose parents immigrated from Eritrea to Canada, admitted in the plea agreement that he flew to San Francisco on May 20, 2008, to supervise an exchange of 148,956 ecstasy pills for 18 kilograms of cocaine.
Prosecutors said in a sentencing brief that probation officers estimated the pills had a wholesale value of $500,000 and a street value of $5 million.
The planned exchange was financed and organized by Canadian resident Acram Adam, according to prosecutors.
But the deal was in fact a sting by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Prosecutors said in the sentencing memo that Teclechaimanot sampled one kilogram of cocaine provided by the undercover agents in San Bruno on May 21, 2008.
The Canadian and a government informant then inspected the pills in two suitcases in the trunk of a car rented by another man accused in the conspiracy, Aleksandr Magero.
Teclechaimanot and Magero were arrested in the car in San Mateo by San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies that evening.
Magero had driven the pills from Washington state to the Bay Area, according to prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge on Sept. 26 and was sentenced on Feb. 1 to five years and four months in prison.
Prosecutors said in their brief that Teclechaimanot had appeared to be “a savvy veteran of the drug trade” in his inspection of the cocaine and pills and had been entrusted with a high level of responsibility by Adam and others in the Canadian drug ring.
The federal attorneys wrote, “The amount of drugs involved here, and their value, is quite simply, staggering.”
Defense attorney Nina Wilder wrote in a sentencing brief that Teclechaimanot, who was a music promoter, and Adam were part of a small Eretrian and Ethiopian community in Vancouver.
She said Adam took advantage of Teclechaimanot’s alleged “misguided loyalty and naivete” when he asked Teclechaimanot to do him a favor in exchange for his travel expenses to go to Irvine for a cousin’s graduation.
Teclechaimanot will be deported to Canada and Magero will be deported to Russia after they complete serving their sentences.