Kent man receives 3-year prison sentence for drug smuggling conspiracy

A 25-year-old Kent man received a three-year prison sentence Friday for drug smuggling as part of a ring that brought drugs to the United States from Canada.

Dwain Bickham was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office media release.

Bickham is a former boyfriend of Irisha Shalle Richardson, 28, of Tacoma, who received a six years, six months sentence Friday for her role in a conspiracy that smuggled BZP, a drug similar to ecstasy, into the U.S. from Canada, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

Richardson not only smuggled drugs across the border herself, she also recruited others to smuggle the drugs. Richardson arranged some of the drug loads with her Canadian counterparts and supervised the installation of a secret compartment in a Volvo SUV to smuggle BZP and cash across the border. At sentencing in U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that the conspiracy brought large amounts of dangerous pills into our community, destroying lives. Richardson “was involved in a major drug transportation ring that was involved in ruining lives and children’s lives here and in Canada,” Lasnik said.

Richardson is one of a number of people convicted in the drug smuggling scheme. The defendants were involved in importing millions of pills of BZP and ecstasy from 2008 until approximately May 2010. Her one time boyfriend, Roderick Vanga, was the leader of the conspiracy and will be sentenced later this month.

Richardson and Vanga conspired to smuggle the pills, commonly sold at raves, into the U.S. from Canada. At one point they smuggled in the powder used to make the pills to attempt to manufacture the pills themselves. One of their associates, James Riggins, was convicted of drug smuggling in 2009, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

After Riggins’ arrest and conviction, Richardson took a more active role in the smuggling scheme, bringing drugs into the U.S. from Canada and recruiting other couriers, most of whom were young women experiencing financial difficulties, to smuggle drugs using rental cars. One of the smugglers she recruited, Kristine Lynch, was arrested after officers at the border searched her car and discovered almost 30 kilograms of BZP pills secreted in a hidden compartment.

Lynch was sentenced in 2010 to 30 months in prison. Michelle Ruby, 22, of Renton, another Richardson recruit, was sentenced Friday to six months in prison.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigation worked on the case.


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