Bralorne man accused of flying drugs into the U.S.

Bralorne businessman Bruce Simon is sitting in a Seattle jail after a U.S. District Court Judge denied him bail on Aug. 27.

Simon, 50, is accused of flying a helicopter loaded with marijuana and ecstasy tablets into the United States.

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He was arrested July 30 by U.S. Homeland Border Security agents who were conducting surveillance of Baker Lake in Whatcom County — a remote spot near the Canadian-U.S. border.

The region is “known to law enforcement officers as an area that is frequently used by narcotics traffickers to smuggle contraband,” the criminal complaint against Simon states.

Agents who staked out the site said they heard a helicopter hovering overhead and watched it land. Simon allegedly removed four black duffel bags from the helicopter’s passenger seat.

“The duffel bags appeared to contain heavy contents as Simon struggled to remove them,” the complaint says.

After Simon moved the bags to a nearby van, the agents moved in and arrested him. They found just less than 10 kilograms of marijuana, 10.5 kg of ecstasy powder and nine more heat-sealed bags containing pills.

Simon moved to Bralorne from Langley eight years ago. He and his partner Sally Bird operated Sally’s Pub and the Mines Hotel. They purchased numerous other properties in the Bridge River Valley, including the old Bralorne hospital, property past Bradian and at least three houses. They also became fixtures in the valley, serving as directors of the Bralorne Pioneer Museum and the Bridge River Valley Economic Development Society.

Down in the Valley correspondent Jean Shaw told the News, “They spent money like they had it, joined community societies and really seemed like they were trying to fit into our area. But rumors started and have continued over the years.”

When U.S. agents contacted the RCMP for more information on Simon, they were told hehad crashed another helicopter in June near Abbotsford.

“RCMP noted that the crash occurred in an area frequently used by drug traffickers to smuggle contraband across the international border,” according to a court document.

“RCMP further observed that the radio beacon which acts as the emergency location transmitter for the helicopter had been removed, which is a tactic used by drug traffickers to avoid detection.”

The document also states Simon didn’t file any flight plan or other necessary information for flying into the U.S.

A criminal history check revealed that Simon is unable to legally enter the United States because he has a criminal history in Canada involving arrests for possession of property obtained in the commission of an offence.

Simon’s Seattle lawyer Richard Troberman filed written submissions asking that his client be released on bail.

He said Simon’s criminal record dates back to when he was only 20 and he has led “a crime-fee life for the past 30 years.”

Troberman described Simon as a “pillar in the small community” of Bralorne, saying Simon’s family and friends call him “the rock that is keeping the small town going through tough economic times.”

Sally Bird said in a letter of support filed with the U.S. court that her common-law spouse “is a trusted and respected resident” of the town.

“A quarter of the local town is employed at any given time with the businesses we own,” she said. “With Bruce’s work ethic and personal flair and the economy on the upswing, life in town was good.”

Bird announced on her Facebook page Aug. 16 that Sally’s Pub is closing Sept. 1. The Mines Motel will remain open.

 “Bruce and I are very sorry to announce the closing of Sally’s Pub, Sept. 1. We will be hosting a night of live music on Saturday, Aug. 29, so please, come for one last party, and make it a night of good memories, and fun and laughter,” she posted.

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