Man caught with cash in horse trailer pleads guilty

CALGARY — It turns out it was horse sense that led Canadian border agents to single out a man attempting to smuggle cash hidden inside his horse trailer.

CALGARY — It turns out it was horse sense that led Canadian border agents to single out a man attempting to smuggle cash hidden inside his horse trailer.

Joseph Dale Butler of St. Thomas, Ont., was arrested April 20, 2009, at the border crossing at Coutts, Alta.

Canada Border Services agents seized a six-stall horse trailer and more than $477,000 in U.S. currency found in a hidden compartment.

“He had told customs agents that he was going down to Montana to buy a horse,” said RCMP Sgt. Stephen Scott of the Calgary integrated proceeds of crime unit.

“When he came back across without the horse, they asked him what kind of horse he had been planning to buy and he replied, ’A brown one.’

“That’s when they directed him to proceed to a secondary search.”

Border agents recognized a hidden panel inside the trailer because things just didn’t look right. There was spray foam insulation at the corners of the panel, and a horse trailer is usually made of metal — not some sort of particle board.

“It shows that our agents know what to look for when they are searching a vehicle. It sends a message,” said Lisa White of the Canada Border Services Agency.

“It was the largest-ever single seizure of cash at a border crossing in Alberta.”

Butler, 35, has pleaded guilty to money laundering and to failing to report importing a currency in excess of $10,000. Both sides in the case have asked for a two-month adjournment before sentencing so a pre-sentence report can be prepared.

Scott said Butler chose to enter the United States from Alberta because he expected to avoid the intense scrutiny he would have received at Ontario border crossings. He was heading back to that province when he got caught.

Scott believes the money was a result of drug dealing but added it’s not clear what the entire story is.