Thursday, January 30, 2014


Here are the desperados, with their attack dog
The global popularity of the series Breaking Bad, which is the dark story of a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher's descent in drug trafficking, seems to have resulted in the adoption of the title into common use. The designation of a Canadian husband and wife, arrested in the United States for bulk cash smuggling , as the "Breaking Bad couple," has caught the attention of compliance officers, not for their crime, but for their unwitting participation, much like accidental criminals, whose ignorance, or disregard, for the law has been extremely costly for them.

Robert & Joanna Lee Booth, a couple from British Columbia, were returning from a road trip to Winnipeg, when winter storms in the Canadian Rockies caused them to divert through the United States. Upon arrival in North Dakota, an inspection of their vehicle turned up CAD$78,080.00 in cash. They had fiAled to declare that they were carrying in excess of USD$10,000 in cash, or the equivalent in any other currency. They were taken into custody, and charged with Bulk Cash Smuggling*, and related offenses, and held pending trial.

They first claimed that the money was gambling winnings, but when the truth came out it appears that they were a couple, down on their luck due to job losses, and who took to transporting "British Columbian Bud" (marijuana) to Winnipeg for sale, and that the money represented the proceeds of crime. Their story elicited widespread sympathy in the media, as well as the comparison to the hit television series.

Ultimately, they changed their plea to guilty, and the Court sentenced them to only Time Served, meaning that the three months that they were incarcerated was the sum total of their prison sentence. They did end up forfeiting the money, though. One wonders how many foreign visitors remember to read the US Customs forms, signs, and other posted warnings, about declaring their cash, wen entering the United States. or did the Breaking Bad couple simply gamble that they would not be searched ?
*United States vs. Booth, 13-cr-00176-DLH (ND).

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