A tip for all you would-be cocaine kingpins: When the FBI catches you off the coast of Colombia with more than 800 pounds of yeyo stashed in your boat, do not argue that "there is nothing wrong with cocaine trafficking." That's exactly the tact John Philip Stirling, a 60-year-old Canadian captain, tried last week and now he's in federal custody in Miami awaiting multiple drug charges.
Stirling -- a notorious Vancouver smuggler once caught with $300 million in coke off the coast near Washington -- was busted in the Caribbean hiding 358 packets of cocaine aboard his 64-foot yacht, Atlantis V.
On Oct. 17, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter spotted the Atlantis V in international waters more than 300 miles from Colombia, according to a federal complaint (which we've embedded below.)
The next day, while the Coast Guard was awaiting permission from Canadian authorities to board, an Italian crew member jumped ship and was fished from the sea by the American sailors.
The deserter, named Luigi Barbaro, said he'd leapt into the Caribbean because the yacht was packed with narcotics and he "feared for his life" as Stirling's crew prepared to sink the boat.
Hours later, the coast guard got permission to board and, using a scanner, quickly found the 358 packages of coke stored behind freshly caulked wooden shelves and panels. They arrested Stirling along with two other Canadians, Thomas Henderson and Randy Theriault, and a Colombian, Jose Manuel Calvo Herrera.
While all the other men invoked their right to an attorney, Stirling decided to sway FBI agents onboard the Coast Guard ship with pure reason. Here's what he had to say, according to the complaint:
Stirling remarked that there was nothing wrong with cocaine trafficking and that the United States should mind its own business. He further remarked that if Canada didn't have such high taxes, they could get legitimate jobs.
Stirling later admitted he knew about the drugs and planned to sail to Australia to unload them.
This isn't the captain's first dance with drug authorities. In 2001, according to the Vancouver Sun, he was caught in the Straight of Juan de Fuca north of Seattle with more than 2.5 tons of cocaine onboard his ship.
Since he was in Canadian waters, the U.S. agents turned him over to the Canucks, who apparently never charged him.
In 2006, he was busted again when $6.5 million in pot was found on a fishing vessel he owned near Vancouver Island. Again, charges were dropped.
So maybe Stirling does know a thing or two about sweet talking his way out of trouble. Our bet is that tact doesn't work so well in Miami federal court, though.
Here's the complaint:
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