The B.C. government wants the owner of a rural Fraser Valley property to forfeit his acreage because he was allegedly involved in a major cross-border helicopter drug-smuggling operation.
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The director of civil forfeiture filed a lawsuit earlier this month claiming Stephen Michael Michaelson was the pilot of a helicopter that tried to pick up a large load of methamphetamine in Washington State in June.
The helicopter was later found on Michaelson’s 33-acre property on Henderson Road just north of the U.S. border near Cultus Lake.
On June 11, the helicopter aborted a landing near Winthrop, Wash., after U.S. agents watched several suspects toss “188 kilograms of methamphetamine in five bags from their vehicles after departing the landing zone,” the suit says.
The RCMP had been notified of the suspected smuggling operation the day before by U.S. Homeland Security and tried to intercept the helicopter after it crossed back over the border into Canada.
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The RCMP’s plane saw the helicopter “parked in the shadows beneath a tree in a clearing in British Columbia and upon being discovered by the RCMP departed the clearing and took evasive action in an attempt to lose RCMP surveillance before eventually landing at a large hangar on the property,” the lawsuit says.
“Mr. Michaelson exited the pilot side of the helicopter and entered the hangar/warehouse and then went into the residence.”
Michaelson was later arrested in his truck after leaving the property he bought in July 2017 for $1.8 million. Officers found his pilot’s licence on him, as well as $27,000 in Canadian currency, “the majority of which was bundled with elastic bands in a manner not consistent with standard banking practices.”
Police also found a GPS and flight logbook.
Michaelson was arrested but released. He has not yet been charged. Also arrested and released the same day was a man named Marty White, who lives in a trailer on the property and had been observed with Michaelson, the court documents say.
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The RCMP searched the Henderson Road property on June 13.
In White’s trailer, they found “an Uzkon 12-gauge shotgun in the closet with a loaded magazine inserted,” as well as 747 grams of marijuana in vacuum-sealed packages and documents related to White’s work on the property.
In the main residence, police found “boxes of ammunition, various flight documents, a document containing 62 different encoded and non-encoded GPS coordinates in the U.S. and Canada.”
“The majority of the U.S. coordinates were located in northern Washington and included the coordinates for the landing zone,” the director’s suit says.
There was also a document denying entry into Canada in the name of one of the U.S. suspects, a fraudulent Homeland Security decal for the helicopter and counter-surveillance devices.
Officers also seized “three large double refrigerator-sized vault safes which contained approximately 160 various types of firearms.”
Inside the hangar was the helicopter seen by police, another Jet Ranger helicopter, a Camaro, Jeep, Toyota 4Runner and a number of boats, trailers and two safes.
The civil forfeiture agency alleges that Michaelson’s property is “an instrument of unlawful activity,” including conspiracy to import controlled substances, careless storage of a firearm and that his interest in it should be forfeited to the government.
Michaelson, who lists his profession as “businessman” on land title documents, has not yet filed a statement of defence.
He has no criminal record in B.C., according to the online court database.
Postmedia has confirmed that he is the same man whose 38-year-old wife Jenny Vu was murdered in a targeted Vancouver shooting in December 2011. Her three-year-old child was in the vehicle with her when she was gunned down in front of the home she shared with Michaelson. No one has ever been charged in the murder.