Bellingham couple arrested with 400 pounds of cocaine

Two Canadian citizens have been charged in federal court with possessing about 400 pounds of cocaine after they were arrested in Bellingham Dec. 6.

Federal narcotics agents arrested Leah Norton and Curtis McLay outside a restaurant on Meridian Street. They had been following McLay and Norton that day and observed them drive to a location north of Maple Falls that is near the U.S.-Canadian border and known for drug smuggling.

With a warrant, the agents searched a truck McLay was driving and found 184 bricks of cocaine that they estimate weighed about 2 pounds each, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The exact weight of those drugs was not available; the bricks were sent to a lab for analysis and the results of those tests are still pending, according to Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.

According to the complaint:

On Dec. 6, the agents began watching Norton and McLay at a motel on East McLeod Road. McLay's truck and an SUV Norton had rented were in the parking lot.

They saw them get into the SUV and drive to the location north of Maple Falls.

While they were gone, other agents brought in a drug-sniffing dog, which detected narcotics inside the truck.

McLay returned to the truck later on and drove it to the restaurant, where he met with Norton.

Agents contacted McLay outside that restaurant and asked for identification. McLay did not have any but said he was a Canadian citizen who entered the U.S. illegally by walking through a field.

The agents arrested McLay, searched him and found keys to the truck. Norton was arrested as she walked out of the restaurant.

A second drug-sniffing dog was brought in and also detected drugs inside the truck's bed, which was covered.

Agents then obtained a search warrant, which they used to open the cover on the truck bed. Inside, they found nine bags containing the bricks of cocaine.

Under questioning, Norton admitted that she would be paid $1,000 for her role in smuggling the drugs. She said she was recruited to be a driver.