A Canadian grandmother has been sentenced to 6 and a half years in jail for trying to smuggle more than 155,000 ecstasy pills into America, according to the Vancouver Sun.
While that might sound like some sort of grandma version of Walter White or Tony Montana, the woman claims to have an excuse. The grandmother, 58-year-old Tina Howe, says she was only smuggling the drugs to protect the life of her son, who owed money to drug traffickers in British Columbia, Canada.
In support of Howe, her daughter-in-law also said that she was doing it for her son. "He wanted to get out of dealing and turn his life around, which led to people wanting him dead," she wrote of her husband. "Yes, this is a crime, but it was also an act of trying to save her son’s life. Being a mother myself, I completely understand."
Howe, along with Maria Cooke, was arrested back in June 2007 after abandoning their minivan near the border of Sumas, Washington. The two were reportedly discovered to have a hidden compartment in the roof that was holding 155,168 ecstasy pills.
While driving on Interstate-5 near Blaine, Washington, the hidden compartment busted open, causing pills to scatter all over the highway. Howe and Cooke threw some of the drugs into a ditch before they abandoned the minivan.
So many pills had been scattered on the highway that state troopers reportedly saw "a pink and blue haze of dust from traffic smashing the pills," according to the Vancouver Sun. After being arrested, Howe confessed that before getting busted, she had already made two other smuggling trips for the drug traffickers. Assistant U.S. Attorney Siddharth Velamoor explained Howe's motivation, saying, "While the drugs that she trafficked posed great harm to the lives of this district, Ms. Howe also acted with the purported desire to protect her own son’s life."
But after originally cooperating with authorities after her 2007 arrest, she went into hiding when returned to British Columbia after she was released on bail. "She then became a fugitive until she was found by Canadian law enforcement, arrested, and extradited to the United States earlier this year," Velamoor explained, calling Howe's decision to flee "obviously reprehensible." Velamoor continued, "Ms. Howe successfully evaded detection by law enforcement by choosing to 'live off the grid.'"
Howe pled guilty back in September for her role in a conspiracy to import and distribute ecstasy in Washington state. This week, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart sentenced Howe to jail for 80 months, which is almost seven years.