A Canadian man who was carrying an estimated $4.5 million worth of cocaine when his tractor-trailer was halted on Route 11 in the town of Antwerp was sentenced Tuesday to 2½ years in federal prison.
Alain Thuot, 49, Quebec, was also ordered in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to undergo two years of supervision upon his release from prison for a May 25 guilty plea to possession with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. In his plea agreement, Mr. Thuot admitted he had more than 100 kilograms of the drug in his truck when state troopers stopped it Sept. 27, 2011.
A trooper pulled his truck over after observing it cross the center line several times. After Mr. Thuot told the trooper he was having some mechanical problems, a member of the state polices commercial motor vehicle unit was called to the scene to conduct a safety inspection. During the inspection, troopers found the cocaine in the sleeper portion of the trucks cab.
Mr. Thuot could have faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, but his attorney, Brian P. Barrett, Lake Placid, argued in a sentencing memorandum he should receive leniency because, among other factors, he did not know he was hauling cocaine.
According to Mr. Barretts memorandum, Mr. Thuot is a father and grandfather with no criminal history. He ran a roadside mechanical assistance company but accumulated debts when the economy worsened. At his wifes urging, he joined a trucking company, where another employee offered him $10,000 to transport an undisclosed amount of money across the border. He later learned the cargo was cocaine.
His only involvement was transportation, and while this is serious, he was not part of an overall conspiracy or entrenched in the drug trade, Mr. Barrett wrote. His involvement is an isolated incident, a terrible decision, made out of financial desperation. Mr. Thuot is not a drug dealer, or seasoned courier for a drug cartel.
In addition to having never been arrested before and being a minor player in the cocaine trafficking, Mr. Barrett argued, Mr. Thuot was eligible for a downward departure from federal sentencing guidelines because he cooperated with prosecutors and accepted responsibility, did not threaten anyone with violence or possess a firearm and his offense did not result in death or serious injury.
This case, and the consequences thus far, have sent a sobering message, a real deterrent, to those who may be involved in similar conduct or who would consider such conduct in the future, Mr. Barrett wrote.