The 58-year-old grandmother smuggled the pills in order to protect her son as he attempted to leave his drug-dealing days behind.
Tina Howe, a 58-year-old grandmother from British Columbia, Canada, has been sentenced to almost 7 years in jail for attempting to smuggle over 155,000 ecstasy pills into the United States. That's a whole lotta X. But Howe is not a longtime kingpin or trafficker -- though she did admit to having carried out two successful smuggling trips before she was eventually caught. Instead, she was acting on the behalf of her son, who was deeply involved in the B.C. drug game. Now that's a ride-or-die mama.
Howe was caught by state troopers near Blaine, Washington all the way back on June 23, 2007. All of the pills were stored in a hidden roof compartment, and after she had successfully made it through the U.S. border, the compartment split open, and a mass amount of ecstasy fell down onto the highway. Howe and her co-smuggler, Maria Cooke (whose age is undisclosed), attempted to move some of the pills into a ditch, and they soon abandoned the minivan they had been driving.
There was so much ecstasy on the highway that state troopers noticed clouds of pink and blue dust as a result of traffic driving over the pills. They eventually arrested both women, and Howe confessed to the crime as well as having made two previous smuggling runs on behalf of an unnamed drug trafficking organization.
Howe was eventually released on bail and allowed to go back to B.C. She is being now being arrested once again -- over nine years after the crime -- because once she returned to Canada in 2007, she went into hiding, living completely off the grid. She was listed as a fugitive for many years, until earlier this year, when she was discovered by Canadian law enforcement, arrested, and extradited to the U.S.
As the proceedings began once more, it was still determined that Howe had smuggled the drugs in order to protect her son. “While the drugs that she trafficked posed great harm to the lives of this district, Ms. Howe also acted with the purported desire to protect her own son’s life,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Siddharth Velamoor.
It is unclear how her acting on behalf of her son affected her sentencing, though living as a fugitive for almost a decade certainly led to a more stringent punishment.
Howe's son had wanted to escape from the drug world, though it seems that he left with certain debts that ultimately put his life in danger. In a letter of support filed by the court, her daughter-in-law explained that Howe had indeed acted in order to "save her son's life."
"He wanted to get out of dealing and turn his life around, which led to people wanting him dead," wrote the daughter-in-law. "Yes, this is a crime, but it was also an act of trying to save her son's life. Being a mother myself, I completely understand."
Howe will now have to spend the next 80 months in jail, which means, barring an early release, she will get out in her mid-60s. Hopefully her son's got somebody looking out for him while mama's on the inside.