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2 Canadians arrested in 88-pound cocaine bust

August 9, 2018

DEADWOOD — Erratic driving in and around Spearfish led to the arrest Thursday of two Canadian women on charges of possession of 88 pounds of cocaine that had an estimated street value in excess of $1 million.

Brittany Nichelle Mary Babiuk, 26, of East St. Paul, Manitoba, Canada, was arrested on North 27th Street in Spearfish and cited for: possession of a controlled substance, a Class 5 felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines; possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines; and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

Bethlehem Haile Shah, 20, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was also arrested Thursday at 305 N. 27th St., the Holiday Inn, in Spearfish and cited for: conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

Court documents indicate that on Aug. 1, a South Dakota Highway patrolman was parked in a median crossover near Mile Marker 10 on Interstate 90, when he allegedly observed an eastbound vehicle traveling 86 mph in the 75 mph zone. The vehicle cut another vehicle off without signaling and exited into Spearfish onto U.S. 85/North Avenue. The vehicle then turned north on U.S. 85 in front of another vehicle that was forced to stop to avoid a collision. The trooper activated his emergency lights and stopped the vehicle at mile marker 45 on U.S. 85.

Standing at the vehicle, the trooper could allegedly smell the odor of raw marijuana and the occupant of the vehicle, Babiuk, was brought to the patrol car for issuance of a citation. Babiuk was allegedly very nervous.

Inside the patrol car, the trooper advised Babiuk of the odor of marijuana and she allegedly admitted to having a small amount of marijuana from Los Angeles and offered to get the marijuana for the trooper. At that point, service dog “Sem” was deployed in an exterior search and allegedly indicated the odor of an illegal drug coming from the vehicle.

The trooper then conducted a search and could allegedly see two suitcases located in the trunk of the vehicle. He picked one up, and Babiuk allegedly immediately exited the trooper’s car and said it was not her suitcase. She was handcuffed, and the trooper opened the suitcase.

He could allegedly see cellophane wrapped packages, consistent with one-kilogram packages. A further search later revealed there were approximately 40 kilograms of cocaine, or 88 pounds, inside the suitcases.

Inside Babiuk’s purse there was allegedly a small amount of marijuana; a THC oil pen located in another bag in the front seat; a bag with trace marijuana and unknown pills also in the front seat; and two empty marijuana product containers in the center console.

Babiuk allegedly waived her Miranda rights and agreed to speak with law enforcement, admitting her role in the transportation and delivery of cocaine from Los Angeles, Calif., to Fargo, N.D., where she was to deliver it to a person later identified as Shah. She also stated that upon delivery, she would allegedly be compensated with $10,000 in cash plus expenses. Over the course of the investigation, Shah allegedly agreed to meet Babiuk in Spearfish and assist her with the transportation and delivery of the cocaine. Shah’s knowledge of the contents of the cocaine in the luggage was confirmed through phone conversations.

At approximately 3:47 p.m., Thursday, Shah arrived in Spearfish to meet with Babiuk, at which time she was taken into custody.

Both women remain in federal custody, and no bond has yet been set.

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