Jeep Grand Cherokee

The dark web -- for most users, it's the ominous thing we hear about in LifeLock commercials as a haven for criminal (and would-be-criminal) behaviors. While there are some legitimate uses for the dark web, those legitimate uses would never make our Felony Friday series! And our story starts when Kareem Hidara of Winnipeg, Canada got on the dark web and found someone offering him $20,000 if he would take a rental car from Winnipeg to Los Angeles, pick up some packages, and come back to Winnipeg, specifically crossing the U.S./Canadian border on the return at a non-approved border crossing in the Montana wilderness (the nearest approved border crossing would be at Sweetgrass, MT). Sounds entirely on the up-and-up, right? And why did it take a little over four years to reach a plea agreement?

Mr. Hidara did one thing right in this entire story. He found a rental car company (Enterprise) that is OK with renters crossing the U.S. and Canadian border. And according to the Winnipeg Free Press, he was a fairly responsible rental car user. He kept the rental car contract and his personal insurance paperwork in the rental vehicle (a Jeep Grand Cherokee). He had successfully driven to Los Angeles, picked up the "packages", and was near the non-approved border crossing at 3:53 a.m., in a car with no lights on and no license plates (not suspicious at all). An officer with the U.S. Border Patrol came upon the Jeep and decided to investigate, at which point Mr. Hidara fled over rough terrain. The terrain was so rough that the Border Patrol had to pursue the Jeep on foot.

Hidara had apparently watched a few too many Jeep commercials and overestimated the capability of his rental Jeep Grand Cherokee. Or at a minimum, he inaccurately equated his Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Jeep Wrangler.

Hidara did not rent this model.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee didn't handle the first 20-foot off-road dropoff well.

After following the Jeep's tracks through tough terrain, trees, brush and fences, agents found pieces of the jeep at the bottom of a 20-foot dropoff, as well as five vacuum-sealed packages containing cocaine.

The agents then located the Jeep (and four more bundles of cocaine) but Hidara was gone, unlike a certain Kansas-detained criminal who only fled a half-mile in 15 hours. Hidara was caught on the Canadian side of the border two days later and still had the key ring for the rental Jeep on his person. Of course, the U.S. Border Patrol had already figured out who they were looking for, given the Enterprise contract, insurance cards, and license plates that were stored in the vehicle. 

So he was pursued by Border Patrol in the United States on October 4, 2013, caught in Canada two days later, and he's just making a plea deal now? Yes. After making bail in Canada, he had his lawyers file -- first in Criminal Court and later in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench (the highest court in the province) -- to block the extradition to the United States and have his cocaine charges thrown out. He claimed that the amount of jail time he would serve in the United States would violate his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (similar to the U.S. Bill of Rights, except two centuries later) as "cruel and unusual punishment". The judge effectively said he would serve a lot of prison time in Canada if he had been caught with the same amount of drugs on the Canadian side of the border, so a lot of prison time in the U.S. would not qualify as "cruel and unusual punishment":

He is alleged to have committed a serious offence. If he was found guilty in Canada of the equivalent offence, in view of the quantities of cocaine that he is alleged to have possessed, Hidara would undoubtedly receive a lengthy period of incarceration.

We even acquired video of the actual extradition back to the United States: 

Hidara had put off the inevitable trip back to the United States for an impressive 3.5 years but it's not like the U.S. had forgotten about the case. He'll be sentenced on May 17 after pleading down to a maximum of 20 years plus a $1 million fine.


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