Ahhh the RCMP: only the FBI has less credibility. Then again you wonder why law enforcement even bothers when everything gets tossed:

Former border agent convicted of taking bribes

 

Aided drug mules at airport; She faces 14 years in prison despite being acquitted of seven other charges

 
It could have been worse: Nancy Cedeno hopes to avoid a prison term entirely. Sentencing arguments start in February.
 

The smile on Nancy Cedeno’s face was that of someone who realized things could have turned out a lot worse, despite having just been convicted of accepting bribes.

The former Canada Border Services agent sported a smile that stretched from ear to ear as she left a Montreal courtroom yesterday, after hearing the verdict in a trial where she was accused of having helped drug smugglers, alleged to be tied to the Montreal Mafia, sneak cocaine through Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Quebec Court Judge Claude Millette convicted Cedeno of accepting bribes but acquitted her on seven other charges, including allegations that she took part in a conspiracy or committed a crime for the benefit of a criminal organization. A conviction on the latter charge could have extended her sentence for accepting bribes.

She now faces a maximum possible prison sentence of 14 years, but Cedeno, 34, now hopes to avoid that entirely.

Sentencing arguments are scheduled for February.

Prosecutor Alexandre Dalmau said it was too early to speculate on what sentence he will seek.

Cedeno’s lawyer, Robert Bellefeuille, said he will ask for a suspended sentence.

After Millette rendered his verdict, Dalmau acknowledged that during Project Colisée, a police investigation into the Montreal Mafia, the RCMP only had evidence that Cedeno collaborated with Omar Riahi, 33, a former Border Services agent, while he helped two smugglers import cocaine through the airport. The smugglers used drug mules who carried several kilograms of cocaine in luggage off flights from the Caribbean.

Cedeno let Riahi have access to her Border Services-issue stamp, which would allow the drug couriers to switch their customs declaration form to a prestamped and coded one that would get them through the airport without being searched.

Riahi pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy, corruption and two counts of committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal organization. He worked as a customs agent in 2003 and 2004 and was posted in Halifax as a military police officer while he helped smuggle cocaine. Sentencing arguments in Riahi’s case are to begin Oct. 28.

In his verdict, Millette determined Cedeno only knew Riahi and that he had at least one partner. The judge concluded there was no evidence Cedeno knew of the existence of a criminal group beyond those two men, and so could not find her guilty of acting for the benefit of a criminal organization, which requires knowledge of at least three people.

Wiretap evidence showed Cedeno was paid at least $500 each time she helped Riahi.

Millette also delivered verdicts involving two other people used by the drug smugglers. Julie Châteauneuf Fleury, 27, pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle 28 kilograms of cocaine through the airport but she contested a charge that she did so for a criminal organization; Millette acquitted her of that count.

Jean Marie Fritz Balmir, 39, was convicted of conspiracy and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal organization.

pcherry@thegazette.canwest.com

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