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Canadian man caught smuggling liquid meth along Oregon coast sentenced to prison

A Canadian man caught sailing a boat full of liquid methamphetamine up the Oregon coast has been sentenced just over three years in federal prison.

Posted: May 21, 2020 4:06 PM
Updated: May 21, 2020 4:33 PM

PORTLAND, Ore, — A Canadian man caught sailing roughly 200 gallons of liquid methamphetamine up the Oregon coast has been sentenced in federal court, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

66-year-old John Philip Stirling was arrested in April of 2019 after the crew of a Coast Guard cutter came upon his sailboat Mandalay about 225 nautical miles off the coast of Newport. The U.S Attorney's Office said that Stirling was bound from Mexico to Canada.

The crew discovered that the Mandalay had a home port in Seattle, Washington — bringing it within U.S. jurisdiction.

"When Coast Guard personnel attempted to communicate with Stirling, he would only respond via VHF radio," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. "Once Coast Guard personnel determined the Mandalay was a vessel within the jurisdiction of the U.S., they boarded and found Stirling to be the vessel’s sole occupant."

When the Coast Guard boarded Stirling's boat, he told them that he did not have documentation for the vessel and refused to show ID. Shortly after that, he started to become incomprehensible.

"Upon further questioning, Stirling’s speech began to deteriorate and he displayed signs of a possible drug overdose," court documents state. "Shortly before Coast Guard personnel boarded the vessel, Stirling consumed a large amount of what he believed to be pure fentanyl, but was later determined to be pentobarbital."

The Coast Guard gave emergency medical aid to Stirling and evacuated him via helicopter to Astoria, where he was taken by ambulance to Adventist Health in Portland.

The Mandalay was towed back to port where a search uncovered 28 jugs, each containing more than seven gallons of liquid meth, and a duffel bag containing plastic-wrapped bricks of pentobarbital. Investigators later learned the drugs had been loaded onto the Mandalay from another vessel in the Sea of Cortez for delivery to Canada.

“The volume and value makes this the largest known maritime seizure by the Coast Guard off the Oregon coast, and we applaud the men and women of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert for their diligence in making the apprehension,” said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McGrew, of the Coast Guard 13th District in Seattle.

In January, Stirling pleaded guilty to one count of meth possession with intent to distribute under the the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). He was sentenced on Thursday to 40 months in federal prison and five years' on supervised release.

Stirling faced similar drug smuggling charges in 2011, in addition to earlier accusations.

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