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‘Wilfully blind’ B.C. drug mule, 79, gets house arrest

Bernard Julius Horvath didn't know the suitcase he was carrying into Vancouver contained 2.96 kilos of methamphetamine.
The Vancouver Law Courts

A B.C. man unwittingly caught with 2.96 kilograms of methamphetamine at Vancouver International Airport has been given a conditional sentence order including 18-months’ house arrest.

On June 7, Bernard Julius Horvath pleaded guilty to importing a controlled substance into Canada before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Amy Francis in what Crown prosecutor Harpreet Parmar called “exceptional circumstances.”

Parmar told the judge that Horvath had been the victim of a digital scam, something not uncommon for elderly victims to be prey of. She said he had been persuaded to carry a suitcase from Mexico via Vancouver to Hong Kong.

Horvath’s ticket had been bought two days before the flight by a third party, leading the Canada Border Services Agency to flag the flight.

Horvath, a retired heavy-duty mechanic, thought he was carrying a suitcase of clothes, the court heard.

“He was wilfully blind,” said the prosecutor.

Drugs concealed in false bottom luggage

CBSA officers met Horvath as he got off the airplane in Vancouver airport on Nov. 11, 2022, said Parmar. 

The officers found drugs in six packages hidden behind two false bottoms in the suitcase, which smelled of glue.

Horvath told the officers the airline ticket had been bought in Brazil two days earlier. When they asked when he had last been in Brazil, he said it had been two years earlier.

When asked how he had bought the tickets if he hadn’t been in the South American country in two years, he said a friend had bought it.

An 'unsophisticated individual' vulnerable to scams

While no details were given about the scam, investigators found evidence of phishing, or attempts at fraud, on his phone. Parmar said the RCMP have repeatedly said seniors can be particularly vulnerable to such scams.

“Mr. Horvath was an unsophisticated individual and had fallen victim to various phishing scams,” Parmar said.

She told the judge that Horvath had been promised money and the plane ticket to carry the suitcase. That, said the prosecutor, indicated the man was motivated by profit.

Parmar said the grandfather of five has expressed remorse and accepted responsibility through his guilty plea.

A permanent resident of Mexico at the time of the incident, Horvath consented to remaining in custody for four months. He was eventually released on $5,000 bail.

The judge sentenced Horvath to 18 months’ house arrest followed by six months of curfew. He must do 60 hours of community service as well as three years' probation.

His travel documents have been surrendered.