By Graeme Wood, With files from Kim Bolan, Postmedia News September 26, 2010
A Canadian marketing executive who was partially responsible for Telus's "cute animals" campaign has been sentenced to eight months in prison by a Seattle court for conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
Former Telus marketing director Chris Neary had struck a plea bargain with U.S. authorities in July by admitting to crossing the border with a backpack full of marijuana.
At this week's hearing, Neary, 34, was also sentenced to two years probation, which can be served in Canada.
Neary, who helped to create the popular Telus TV ads featuring piglets, monkeys and a menagerie of other creatures, admitted conspiring to distribute just under 50 kilograms of marijuana in Washington state when he snowshoed across the border into Snoqualmie National Forest on April 26.
The court previously heard that tracks had led authorities to where Neary and Daryl Fontana, another B.C. businessman, were "hiding in the woods." Both told U.S. agents they were to be paid $10,000 each for their efforts. Three other men from Vancouver -- Carl Theissen, Sinisa Gavric and Richard Bafaro -- were also arrested in connection with the scheme.
Because he co-operated with authorities, Neary received a lighter sentence for what prosecutors called a "minor role" in the drug-smuggling operation.
Although the count carries a maximum sentence of five years, the government asked the court for a one-year sentence. The defence had sought a six-month sentence.
Under his supervised release conditions, Neary would be subjected to drug testing as frequently as once a month, said Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
He was released on condition that he reports to prison, and will wait up to two months before being told to which federal institution he is to be sent.
Fontana, Theissen, Gavric and Bafaro also pleaded guilty to related charges.