UPDATED: 6/11/08 5:07 pm EDTTwo managers of a Canadian auto dealership face federal felony charges in the United States for their alleged involvement in a massive drug ring over the Washington state border.
Devron Quast and Philip Stone, managers of Don Quast Hyundai in Abbotsford, British Columbia, were indicted May 21. A federal indictment charges they were involved in a bust by U.S. authorities that seized 1,329 pounds of cocaine, 6,952 pounds of marijuana and $3.5 million.
Quast, 38, is general manager of the dealership and son of dealership owner Don Quast. Stone, 45, was a sales manager at the dealership. Devron Quast, Stone and seven others face felony charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The nine were indicted after a three-year investigation by U.S. authorities.
Devron Quast pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, June 11, at his arraignment in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to the indictment, Devron Quast led the drug scheme along with Robert Shannon, who has no affiliation with the dealership. The defendants shipped the cocaine and “high potency” marijuana -- which they informally referred to as “B.C. Bud” -- from Canada to Washington, according to the indictment.
Devron Quast was responsible for the “day-to-day business operations of the organization,” according to the indictment.
Adam Cornell, the lead attorney representing the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle, said in a phone interview with Automotive News, “There is absolutely no reason to believe that the dealership was in any way complicit in Mr. Quast and Mr. Stone’s criminal activity.”
Father seeks answers
Owner Don Quast said he doesn’t know why his son would have been involved in any illegal activity.
“I’m just in a fog. I have no idea. I still to this minute don’t know why my son would do that,” Quast told Automotive News in a phone interview. “He didn’t need the money. We had a nice little family business.”
Don Quast began selling farm equipment in 1980. Eight years later, he started selling new and used cars. He said that in 1992, Hyundai Motor Co. asked him to become a dealer.
From the beginning, his son was employed at the dealership. Eventually, the younger Quast became general manager.
“I don’t know when, where or how. It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Don Quast said.
Devron Quast was arrested in Ferndale, Wash., on Friday, June 6, and is in custody. He and Shannon met with an undercover agent there on three occasions in the first three months of the year, according to the indictment.
According to a document filed by his attorney, Peter Camiel, Don Quast has proposed posting $200,000 bail for his son’s release. The proposed conditions of release include waiving rights to contest an extradition, restricting Devron Quast’s travel to the Western District of Washington and western British Columbia and wearing a monitoring device.
Stone has not been arrested. He established a lumber company in Canada so that drug distributors had the documents they needed to cross the international border, according to the indictment.
Stone came into the dealership and cleared his desk the day after Don Quast learned of his son’s charges. Don Quast said Stone admitted his involvement in the indictment and then left.
U.S. attorney spokeswoman Emily Langlie said Stone will be targeted by a U.S. extradition, a process that could take years. An extradition is the process of one country obtaining the surrender of a crime suspect in another country.
“The extradition process will generally be somewhat lengthy if he remains in Canada,” Langlie told Automotive News in a phone interview. “It could take two to three years unless he comes to the border to appear.”
No effect on business
Don Quast said the alleged activity of his son, which was reported in Canadian newspapers, has not affected business.
“We’ve had 600 to 700 phone calls and not one negative word or response,” he said. “People have offered support; they’ve offered to give thousands of dollars for whatever bail money might be needed.”
But Don Quast said the business is not in his thoughts: “I just want to hold my son.”