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U.S. authorities charge Canadian couple with cash smuggling

A Canadian couple who allegedly made monthly trips from British Columbia to Manitoba to sell marijuana stashed in hockey bags were arrested when they decided to travel through North Dakota to avoid bad weather, U.S. authorities said Tuesday.

Robert and Jonna Booth are charged with bulk cash smuggling into and out of the United States. They were told at a hearing Tuesday they qualified for a court-appointed lawyer, but a spokesman for the federal defender’s office was not available for comment.

Jonna Booth told Judge Karen Klein that she did not fully understand the charge, and Robert Booth said there were no plans to sneak the money into the U.S.

“We were just going home to British Columbia,” he told the judge.

Authorities said the Booths were detained after arriving at the Northgate port of entry in western North Dakota about 4:30 p.m. on Monday. They said Customs and Border Patrol officers found about $73,000 in Canadian money stashed behind a cabinet in the bathroom of the couple’s motor home.

The Booths had claimed they were not carrying more than $10,000, authorities said.

Police said Robert Booth told them he won the money gambling at a casino, but they said information in Jonna Booth’s journal indicated that the cash came from the sale of marijuana. The Booths are not facing drug charges.

Investigators said Jonna Booth told them that she and her husband had travelled to Winnipeg once a month since January to sell pot. According to investigators, she said they decided to go through North Dakota this time because of snowstorms in the Canadian Rockies.

Court documents show Jonna Booth told officers that she and her husband started selling marijuana because of financial problems. She told officers the marijuana was transported from British Columbia to Manitoba in two hockey bags, according to the documents.

The Booths were not asked to enter a plea on Tuesday and a detention hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.