Pubdate: Thu, 18 Nov 2004
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Province
Author: Ian Austin
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


Winnie Lam, 19, had two close calls with law enforcement but continued 
smuggling drugs from Vancouver to Seattle and is now headed to jail for 8 years

Ian Austin The Province

A Vancouver teenager who couldn't break her drug-smuggling habit despite 
two clear warnings has been sentenced to eight years in a U.S. jail.

Winnie Lam, 19, who became addicted to a high-flying lifestyle, was 
sentenced to 97 months in jail as the ringleader of an operation smuggling 
ecstasy from Vancouver to Seattle.

U.S. District Court documents reveal that investigators "were impressed 
with her industriousness and capability."

"Unfortunately, she put all of this to work for the wrong reason.

"As to why she did what she did, the government believes it was because of 
what it brought her -- popularity, friends and lots of money."

Lam, who U.S. officials believe worked with nine accomplices aged 18 to 31 
to smuggle 80,000 ecstasy pills south of the border, apparently got used to 
living the high life in Seattle.

"At the time of her arrest, she was carrying expensive Louis Vuitton bags, 
which were seized from her," according to court documents.

"Records recovered from the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle indicate that 
Lam spent more than $10,000 at the hotel over a two-month period.

"Louis Vuitton's is across the street."

U.S. District Judge James Robart, who ordered that Lam be subject to three 
years of supervised release once she serves her time, heard a tale of an 
ambitious young woman who was twice warned before the third time turned 

"She was completely undeterred by her own arrest and detection by law 
enforcement," read the documents.

Lam's first run-in with U.S. authorities came in March 2003, when they came 
upon a package sent to her containing more than $12,000 (all figures in 
U.S. dollars).

"Over a series of calls, Lam told a series of lies to law enforcement 
officers about why [an accomplice] was sending her this money," the 
documents say.

"Ultimately, officers decided that there was not enough basis to seize this 
money from her, and so it was returned.

"Rather than read this event as a close call, Lam simply resumed her 
illegal activities."

Run-in No. 2 came on Dec. 19 when she arrived at the U.S. border -- 
travelling with a false passport in the name of Ashley Shaw -- and 
authorities seized $40,000 worth of marijuana. Charged with trafficking and 
released on bond, she was soon back to her old ways.

"Again, she did not stop," court documents show. "On April 21, 2004, she 
was apprehended entering the United States at Sea-Tac Airport."

This time Lam was travelling under a false passport in the name of Natasha 
Neale, and the odds finally caught up to her.

"A search of her person uncovered two bags of MDMA [ecstasy], one in her 
bra, and one in her panties, totalling 1,000 pills, with a street value in 
excess of $10,000."

Lam -- who told authorities she netted $75,000 in her two-year crime spree 
- -- arrived at her first court appearance in April dressed in haute couture, 
but was clad in prison blues at her sentencing hearing on Monday.

Seven of Lam's underlings -- all Seattle-area residents -- have already 
been sentenced for their parts in the smuggling ring.

In sentencing Lam, Robart told her how "personally sorry I have felt for 
the people you've involved in this . . . as I've been forced to sentence 
literally clueless young people who became involved in your organization."

As Lam was led away from court by U.S. deputy marshals, she called out 
through tears to her mother, father, brother and boyfriend:

"Don't worry. I'll be OK. I love you." 
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