Pubdate: Tue, 12 May 2015
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Kim Bolan
Pages: A9-A10

Special Report/Day 3


The upside for jailed Vancouver longshoreman Jason Cavezza is that his
job is waiting for him when he gets out of a U.S. prison later this

Metro Vancouver longshoreman Jason Cavezza has had a rough few years.
He was arrested in Cancun, Mexico on May 31, 2008 while on his
honeymoon with his now ex-wife.

His father died during his seven months in a rat-infested Mexican
prison awaiting extradition to the U.S. on felony drug charges.

He was accused of being part of a drug ring that smuggled millions
worth of marijuana, ephedrine and cocaine across the Canada-U.S.
border over a six-year period.

Then he was sentenced to eight years in November 2009 after pleading
guilty to distributing more than 100 kilograms of B.C. bud across
Washington and Oregon states.

But when he is finally released from a Pennsylvania prison later this
month, there will be one positive in Cavezza's life - his job on
Vancouver's waterfront awaits him.

Despite his criminal conviction, Cavezza, 40, has maintained good
standing in the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union, local
514. One of several ILWU locals on the Metro waterfront, it represents
longshore foremen.

And as he said in a recent court document challenging his 2008 plea
agreement, Cavezza's "employer has continuously maintained
petitioner's position through to the date of this motion."

To some, the notion of convicted drug smugglers working at Port Metro
Vancouver is troubling.

Former B.C. solicitor general and longtime cop Kash Heed said no one
with a history in the drug trade should be anywhere near shipping
containers arriving and leaving for points all over the world.

"We are one of the most porous ports in North America for drugs coming
in and then you have got these guys with serious criminal records
working down there on the waterfront," Heed said. "It's

Neither the ILWU nor the Hells Angels responded to several requests
for comment.

Longshore foreman

Cavezza, who has been in the ILWU since 1996, worked as a foreman at
Deltaport until April 2008, according to documents obtained by The
Vancouver Sun.

U.S. court records say that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's
Portland office began investigating the "Cavezza Drug Trafficking
Organization" in 2002 - meaning the period of his criminal activity
overlapped with his employment on the waterfront.

An Oregon prosecutor said Cavezza and his co-accused ran "one of the
largest, most sophisticated, and most financially significant
drug-smuggling operations ever uncovered in Oregon law-enforcement

"On the day of the first arrest, November 16, 2002, over 838.5 pounds
of marijuana was seized worth $2.5 million. In addition, over 57
pounds of pure ephedrine was seized, a quantity capable of making a
very conservative estimate of 28 pounds of actual methamphetamine,
which if sold in gram quantities would yield $1.3 million," the
prosecutor said.

Court documents in a related California case say Cavezza's gang was
also "acquiring and transporting multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine
from Los Angeles, California to Canada."

Unbeknownst to him, Cavezza was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in 2007,
but the court records were sealed.

How U.S. officials got wind of the massive operation has not been
revealed, but two of the 20 defendants named on the original
indictments in California and Oregon later disappeared, suggesting
possible co-operation. The other 18 have all been convicted.

Cavezza's "organization was involved in a scheme to transport large
quantities of marijuana from British Columbia, Canada, into
Washington, Oregon, and California beginning in 2002," court documents

He "worked with couriers to move the marijuana across the Canadian
border hidden in hollowed-out bunks of lumber on tractor-trailer
loads, then arranged for couriers to pick up the drugs in Oregon and
elsewhere in order to take them to California."

While Cavezza was convicted only of smuggling pot, other members of
his gang were convicted of distributing ephedrine and cocaine.

When Cavezza was sentenced, his lawyer Whitney Boise said the
hard-working longshoreman had put in more than 10,000 hours on the
docks from 1996 to 2008.

"I know he was a valued employee there," he said.

And Boise said U.S. authorities "found no evidence that Mr. Cavezza
used his position as a longshoreman to further his criminal activity
in the case. The government also has no evidence that Mr. Cavezza was
involved in working with either organized crime or as a terrorist in
any way."

He also stressed the hardship of his client's early days in

"While he was in jail, his father died. He was unable to attend his
father's funeral =C2=85. The conditions he lived in in Mexico in the
Mexican prison there were, I think in my own words shocking.

"Those around him had tuberculosis, hepatitis and intestinal diseases.
It was a very unsanitary condition. There were feces and urine, rats
and mice and insects all over the prison. To get the necessary foods
and basics such as blankets you had to beg, pay or be extorted by the
guards under threat of being beaten."

U.S. District Court Judge Garr M. King said he was surprised Cavezza
turned to crime given his lucrative job at Vancouver's port.

"Making that kind of money and a good family situation and getting
involved in the distribution of marijuana, it's well beyond me why you
did that," King said. "Frankly when I look at Mr. Cavezza's work
history and background, I really thought I haven't run into anybody as
stupid as him before. Seriously."

What did not come out at Cavezza's sentencing is that another B.C. man
convicted in the case, named Patrick O'Brien, said in court documents
that some of the drugs being smuggled belonged to the Hells Angels.
O'Brien, who was convicted in 2010, said he didn't know about the
bikers' involvement when he agreed to participate and was angry when
he found out.

He threatened to quit the operation, but was told "that he couldn't
quit or the Angels would kill him."

Nor did the judge at Cavezza's sentencing hear that a second B.C.
longshoreman had been charged and convicted in the same drug conspiracy.

That was Alexie Randhawa, who also started as a longshoreman in

He was arrested in Los Angeles on June 3, 2008 - just hours after he
helped another B.C. man involved in the drug ring load 107 kilograms
of cocaine packed into a suitcase and three boxes into a silver pickup

Randhawa had flown to L.A. the day before to help distribute the
cocaine. What Randhawa didn't know was that DEA special agent Wendy
Chang was watching him and a warrant had already been issued for his
L.A.based associate.

Randhawa and two of his B.C. associates were doing countersurveillance
- - watching out for cops - as they drove around the Arcadia
neighbourhood of L.A., Chang noted in the criminal complaint filed
against Randhawa.

They parked the truck at a gas station, with the $1.5 million worth of
cocaine still inside, then took a cab to a rental car company to pick
up a van.

While in the rented vehicle, police pulled them over and arrested

Randhawa pleaded guilty within months to conspiracy to distribute

Like Cavezza, Randhawa focused on his history as a longtime
longshoreman as a positive factor at his sentencing.

"Mr. Randhawa has also shown a solid work ethic which consists of 12
years' employment as a stevedore on the docks of British Columbia,"
his lawyer Victor Sherman said.

"He is a member in good standing of Local 500 of the International
Longshoreman and Warehouseman Union (ILWU) and has a history of
conforming to the rules of both his labour union and his industry."

Randhawa provided support letters from his distraught family,
including his longshoreman dad and brother.

He also provided reference letters from two foremen who had worked
with him on the waterfront for years.

And he wrote to the court himself, offering his "sincerest apologies
to the United States of America for acting on a crime that I should
have never been a part of."

Randhawa doesn't explain how he came to be in L.A. with members of an
international drug ring named by investigators after Cavezza - his
fellow B.C. longshoreman.

"I hope that you will find me a remorseful and extremely shameful
person and credit me with a chance to rebuild my life as a respectable
contributor to society and my country," Randhawa said.

In the stack of glowing reference letters is one from Peter Haines,
secretary treasurer of ILWU Local 500 at the time, confirming the drug
trafficker is a member in good standing of the union and that "there
are no discipline issues with him in all his time in the industry."

Another letter was written on the same day by the Waterfront Employers
of B.C. confirming Randhawa earned more than $85,00 in 2007 and just
under $43,000 in 2008 up to the date of his arrest.

Randhawa claimed his role in the cocaine operation was an aberration -
"a blip on the radar screen of his life which should not completely
define who he is."

While in jail, he took on the Canadian government for refusing to
allow him to return to Canada to serve his sentence.

And he won in 2011 when the Federal Court of Canada chastised Vic
Toews, then public safety minister, for denying the prisoner transfer.

The government was ordered to pay Randhawa's legal

Randhawa, now 37, returned to work as a longshoreman in November

He still works on the docks in Vancouver.

He's done well since his return, purchasing an Abbotsford property
with two others in September 2013 for $1,071,428.

Then he bought a second property in Burnaby with someone else a year
later for $1,053,000.

And in November - two years after his release - he ran for his union's

He lost.
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