Foreign nationals sentenced after admitting criminal proceeds offences

Two foreigners accused of plotting to import $33 million worth of cannabis to Bermuda have been handed year-long jail terms after admitting to lesser charges.

Andrew Blatchley, 59, a British national living in South Carolina, and Peter Sagos, 36, from Canada, were caught when Police intercepted Blatchley's boat and found thousands of dollars in cash and a gun on board.

Blatchley pleaded guilty on Tuesday to laundering proceeds from the trafficking enterprise and Sagos pleaded guilty last Friday to possessing the proceeds.

  • Photo by Glenn Tucker
<b>Andrew Blatchley</b>, 58, of Charleston, South Carolina, who pleaded guilty at Supreme Court to money laundering.

    Photo by Glenn Tucker Andrew Blatchley, 58, of Charleston, South Carolina, who pleaded guilty at Supreme Court to money laundering.

  • Photo by Mark Tatem
<b>Accused (face obscured):</b> Peter Sagos, 36, of Ottowa, Canada, pleaded guilty to possessing criminal proceeds.

    Photo by Mark Tatem Accused (face obscured): Peter Sagos, 36, of Ottowa, Canada, pleaded guilty to possessing criminal proceeds.


Two foreigners accused of plotting to import $33 million worth of cannabis to Bermuda have been handed year-long jail terms after admitting to lesser charges.

Andrew Blatchley, 59, a British national living in South Carolina, and Peter Sagos, 36, from Canada, were caught when Police intercepted Blatchley's boat and found thousands of dollars in cash and a gun on board.

Blatchley pleaded guilty on Tuesday to laundering proceeds from the trafficking enterprise and Sagos pleaded guilty last Friday to possessing the proceeds.

Both denied conspiring to import cannabis into the Island between a date unknown and September 23 last year, and the Crown accepted those pleas.

However, Supreme Court heard during sentencing yesterday that Blatchley told Police he was involved in importing the cannabis to Bermuda. It has never been found.

Senior Crown Counsel Cindy Clarke told the court Sagos arrived in Bermuda on August 27, 2009, indicating he was only staying for 12 days. At that time, he had a credit card and just five dollars in cash. His luggage was searched and nothing illegal was found.

Blatchley's 36-foot boat, the Bomba Shack, arrived in Bermuda around September 23 allegedly with the drugs on board. It later left the Island, but was intercepted by the Police on October 2 when it was approximately 13 miles off the coast.

Blatchley, from Charleston, was found on board, along with a friend of his wife, Jeannie Harden, 58, also of Charleston and another man, Edide Plourde, 68, of Quebec, Canada.

They were detained and brought back to Bermuda, and the Bomba Shack was piloted back to the Island by Police officers. It was then searched by narcotics officers who found $27,950 in US cash, $14,550 in Jamaica banknotes and $1 in Bahamas cash.

Police also found a revolver with five rounds of ammunition, packaging wrapped with silver duct tape, fragments of rubber bands and a satellite phone.

Blatchley made what Ms Clarke described as "full and frank confessions" to the Police when he was interviewed on October 4.

"The defendant Blatchley admitted to being involved in a drug trafficking offence which involved importing controlled drugs into these Islands when interviewed by the Police. The defendant Blatchley admits that he was paid $60,000 [and] that he took $30,000 and gave it to his wife, who took it out of Bermuda concealed in her clothing," she said.

Although it was not specified in court, The Royal Gazette understands Blatchley told detectives the drugs weighed 1,000 pounds, which would be worth in the region of $33 million on the streets of Bermuda.

According to Blatchley's lawyer, he received the money from his co-defendant, Sagos, from Ottawa.

Sagos' hotel room at the Fairmont Southampton was searched by Police on October 6, and $18,820 in Bermuda currency was found, along with $10,000 in US currency and a satellite phone.

Officers also found fragments of rubber bands and packaging wrapped with silver duct tape. The telephone number of Sagos' satellite phone was stored on the memory of the satellite phone seized from the Bomba Shack.

Sagos denied wrongdoing when interviewed the following day. However, he now admits the cash was his proceeds from a drug trafficking offence.

"The method used to bundle the monies found in the defendant Sagos' room is strikingly similar to the monies seized from the Bomba Shack," said Ms Clarke yesterday.

She added that the cash was found to have "significant" amounts of the chemical THC on it the chemical product of cannabis.

Ms Clarke told the court that in addition to their guilty pleas, the pair co-operated with the authorities by signing orders consenting to the confiscation of all the cash found, plus the Bomba Shack, which is worth $92,000, and the two satellite phones.

Some of the money will go to pay their legal fees, while the rest will go into the confiscated assets fund, which is used to pay for drug investigations, education and the treatment of addicts.

The gun will be destroyed.

Asking for leniency yesterday, Blatchley's lawyer Craig Attridge told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that he is suffering from prostate cancer and a tumour on his spine that has the potential to render him quadriplegic.

Mr. Attridge also explained that Blatchley was "in considerable financial hardship" at the time he committed the offence [see separate story above].

"On the Crown's case, it's clear that the monies alleged to have been received by my client, if they were received from anybody, they were received from his co-defendant [Sagos]. So I would ask you to consider the respective roles of the co-defendants in respect of these offences," he said.

"My client was a mule, if you can put it that way, and as is referred to in the summary [of evidence] Mr. Sagos was the financier."

Both Sagos' lawyer, Elizabeth Christopher, and the judge took issue with that. The judge commented that she'd heard no evidence of what the $60,000 payment was for.

Asking for leniency for her client, Ms Christopher said: "His mother is suffering by virtue of his imprisonment."

Prosecutor Ms Clarke asked the judge to mete out a sentence in the range of 18 months to two-and-a-half years for each man.

However, sentencing them both to a year each, the judge said they deserved credit for cooperating with the authorities, and that she'd taken Blatchley's ill health into consideration.

She also commented: "Money laundering and possession of proceeds of criminal conduct are both serious offences."

The sentences take their time spent in custody since their arrests in October into account, so the men will be flying home within days.

The other sailors on the Bomba Shack, Ms Harden and Mr. Plourde, were originally charged with conspiring to import cannabis. However, following a preliminary inquiry into the evidence last December, the prosecution dropped the charges against them. Mr. Plourde died of cancer just days after returning home to Canada.

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