WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg man has been sentenced to a year in jail after he admitted to helping smuggle nearly two dozen guns across the U.S. border in exchange for cash and drugs.
An American court has also ordered three years of supervised probation for Thomas Scher, after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
The 20-year-old man, who attended Minot State University, struck a plea bargain with federal prosecutors in exchange for a quick trial and a reduced sentence.
Two co-accused who admitted their roles in the crime ring — Gokhan Ozturk of Winnipeg and North Dakotan Curtis Rolle — have yet to be sentenced.
Court documents indicate that guns bought by Scher and Rolle in the Minot area would end up in Winnipeg where Ozturk would pay the men with cash or ecstasy tablets.
Scher and Rolle were arrested last December and agreed to help police with their investigation of Ozturk.
“This is ripping me apart,” Chris Scher said the day after his son was sentenced.
Thomas Scher graduated from College Jeanne-Sauve in 2007, and the next year left for Minot State University on a partial football scholarship.
“He wanted to play the American dream,” his father said. He said he thinks money pressure — as a Canadian citizen, Thomas couldn’t work during the school year — may have led his son into making “a stupid mistake.”
Scher stressed his son was only directly involved in selling the ecstasy. “Thomas never purchased a damn gun, he can’t, because he’s a Canadian.”
Scher last saw his son at the sentencing Monday and said Thomas was both nervous and upset.
“In his speech to the judge, he said what bothers him the most… is that he let his dad down,” Scher said, sobbing.
Police say nearly all of the 22 high-powered handguns smuggled into Winnipeg are still missing.