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Second blaze at site of burned grow operation Page 2

Art woven into fabric of culture Page 5

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vol. 50 No. 10 Sicamous, B.C., • 1.05 (GST included) •

Malakwa man trying to rise above criminal past Special Report: Colin Martin talks about life choices.

By Lachlan Labere Eagle Valley News

Colin Hugh Martin considers himself an honest, responsible, God-fearing man. Martin was labeled the ringleader of a Canada-U.S. marijuana smuggling operation between 1997 and 1999. It ended following a 13-month RCMP investigation. Of the 17 arrested, including his father Donald and brother Damyen. Colin was the only one to face a major conviction. Currently, Martin is facing a U.S. extradition order for his alleged involvement in a second cross-border drug smuggling operation that was taken down in 2009 through a Canada-U.S. investigation dubbed Operation Blade Runner. Canadian-actor Jason Priestly has bought the rights to film a movie about Blade Runner and one of the alleged coconspirators, 24-year-old Samuel LindsayBrown, who hung himself in a Spokane jail after U.S. Drug Enforcement agents caught him stateside transporting drugs in a helicopter leased through Martin’s Malakwa company, Gorge Timber Ltd. While he denies any involvement in Blade Runner, Martin will tell you that Lindsay-Brown might still be alive today if the two had never met. In fact, Martin is not the least bit reserved when it comes to talking about his past, from his early dealings with cocaine, to the drug-smuggling operation he, his father and brother were involved in. In the Shuswap, Martin’s reputation precedes him. He is the notorious drug dealer from Malakwa. But Martin doesn’t get it. To him, this is all a gross exaggeration. “It’s funny, to look at from my point of view, as far as the celebrity and the famous drug guy from Malakwa – I don’t know the word I’m looking for,” the 37-year-old Martin says over the kitchen table at his Malakwa home. “It’s funny how things can get blown out of proportion and how easy that seems to happen in the media. “Some things make a great story and I guess if it wasn’t me that they were talking about, I might think that’s a good story.” Martin laughs at the notion of being

Straight talk: Convicted marijuana smuggler Colin Martin doesn’t mince words when discussing his past, or his views about the drug trade and U.S. drug enforcement. Photo by Lachlan Labere thought of as some kind of gangster. A quick ous bright children’s toys. Martin and partlook around his home doesn’t reveal any ner Jen Cahill have five children between signs of a gangster lifestyle that Hollywood them. Martin says his kids are his life, and might be interested in. Though spacious, if there’s one lesson he hopes to teach them, vthere are no lavit’s that one must take o ish furnishings to responsibility for their re be seen. There are actions. he no fast cars in the “Yeah, there might ge driveway (a Dodge be some people out I am a God-fearing person and I ce Viper he once there that are truly evil believe that there’s going to be a d owned was seized people, but this finger in 1999 when he pointing… That’s just day that all of us are going to be h was charged with judged, and all of our skeletons are not who I am,” says opossession of proMartin. “I am a Godgoing to come out of the closet. ). ceeds of crime). fearing person and I Colin Martin eThere are no firebelieve that there’s god, arms sitting around, ing to be a day that all or stacks of money of us are going to be or wrapped bundles of suspicious materials. judged, and all of our skeletons are going to In fact, what stands out most are the numer- come out of the closet.”

Martin wound up in the Malakwa area with his mom and siblings around 1980 to be with their grandma and grandpa, Hugh and Isabelle Gresham, who owned and operated the Malakwa cafe. “We moved in with Grandma and Grandpa, and they ran the restaurant and us kids peeled the potatoes and filled the pop and pumped the gas – it was kind of a nice little arrangement really,” says Martin. Later Martin started working in the bush, largely in the shake and shingle industry. The work was immediately rewarding, and at Grade 8 Martin dropped out of school to be in the bush full time. “I felt that doing shake and shingles was what I wanted to do in life and I wanted to get right at it so I quit school,” said Martin. See Logging on page 3

Eagle Valley News • Wednesday, March 10, 2010 3

Logging death leads to life in trafficking Continued from front

“It was more of a social event… I wasn’t there learning anything.” Around the time he was 19, Martin says the NDP government decided to pull out of funding the shake and shingle industry. This, he says, had a crippling effect on the community. “They decided dead standing trees were a better home for the white owl then they were for us to make a living,” said Martin. “So the salvage program was discontinued and there were hundreds of people looking for work. Restaurant business went in the toilet, things around here just dried up.” Those still with permits to harvest wood, including Dave Stead, suddenly had a deadline to get the work finished. While working for Stead, Martin partnered with Robbie Muskett. Martin says o they were about two g weeks from finishing when Muskett was fa-tally injured on the job.. g “We were falling m the trees, cutting them to length for the he-licopter to lift out,”” said Martin. “Robbie, I think he was about 23,, 24 years old, and a treee rolled down the bankk and squished his headd at onto a stump. That was probably the mostt shocking, horrible ex-perience that’s ever happened in my life… I remember it like it was yesterday.” After this experience, Martin says he could no longer do the work. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and spent about eight months on worker’s compensation. Martin eventually arranged for a buyout from the compensation board. He says they paid him $11,000 so that he could get a pilot’s licence. But that pursuit ended when Martin learned his eyesight wasn’t good enough. Around the same time, Martin began selling and using cocaine. One week dur-

Family first:

Colin Martin shares a moment with Riddick and Mykal, two of his five children. Photo by Lachlan Labere

ing the three-month period he was using, Martin says he wound up in hospital on five separate occasions. The experience scared him off the drug, but did not dissuade him from selling. “I wish I could say yeah, I wound up in the hospital and at the end of the day I thought,

I feel I’m a pretty normal person. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been at this so long I’ve become numb to what’s going on. Colin Martin ‘Gee, this is horrible stuff and I shouldn’t be selling this to people.’ But that’s not the way it was.” Martin’s career change, from cocaine peddler to marijuana smuggler, began one fateful day when his father showed up on his doorstep, claiming he knew people in Eugene, Oregon who were in the pot business. Colin said he could get his hands on 10 pounds of pot, and Donald knew people with property on the Canada-U.S. border they could move it through. Soon after, with his brother Damyen’s help, the three were successful in smuggling the

popular B.C. bud into the States and made a quick, $30,000 profit. “It was only 10 pounds, but at the time we were thinking, ‘that’s a lot of pot,’” says Martin. “It’s strange, but that’s how small time it was and how it really all started.” The operation continued to grow to a point where Martin was pulling in about $200,000 a week. And, despite the incredible risks involved, it was work he was more comfortable with. “I thought this is great,” said Martin. “This is much less stress than dealing cocaine.” In 2004, Donald and Damyen were sentenced to terms of house arrest after pleading guilty of conspiring to export marijuana to the U.S. Colin says he also pleaded guilty, seeking the same punishment. Two years later he was found guilty on eight counts of money laundering, conspiracy to traffic in drugs, conspiracy to export drugs and possession of proceeds of crime. He was later sentenced to

two-and-a-half years in prison but, with an appeal still before the court, has yet to serve time. As for the U.S. extradition order, Martin has no intention of going back to the U.S. anytime soon. He maintains the only reason his name is in a U.S. court indictment is because of a series of brief exchanges he had with U.S. Drug Enforcement agents, beginning in September 2009, where he was attempting to demonstrate to CBC reporters the agency’s willingness to “get in bed with the bad guys.” While he recognizes there are indeed bad guys involved in the drug-smuggling business, Martin doesn’t include himself among them. When he hears that people are afraid of him, of who he is and what he’s done, Martin says it hurts him deeply. “There are people out there who are involved in this industry who are not these monsters the cops would like you to believe,” says Martin. “They are normal people just like you and me. I feel I’m


a pretty normal person. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been at this so long I’ve become numb to what’s going on.” To one end of Martin’s 30-acre property sits a spacious yet near-empty workshed. On one side of the shed is a gravel pit Martin hopes will become profitable as his competitors in the area start running out of product. To the other side runs a creek on which he hopes to establish an independent power project. He says the plans are already before the province for approval. But Martin is reserved about both projects, admitting past attempts at going legit have been challenging at best. Asked if he is still somehow involved in the drug trade, Martin says he knows people who are involved and who sometimes come to him seeking advice. After a long pause, he admits it has been a pretty big part of his life – and not an easy one to shake. “I just want to be right up front, but then there’s the other side of me that says you need to watch what you say. You do have kids who rely on you. I’m an honest person. I would not sit here and look you in the eyes and tell you I’m a perfect, law abiding citizen. Do I break the law? Sure I do. That’s all I have to say on that.”



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CCNA - Premier Awards Best Feature Story - Circulation to 3,999 Lachlan Labere, Sicamous Eagle Valley News

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