Trucker arrested after $10M cocaine bust crossing the border – “We’re seeing an uptick in trafficking”

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LEWISTON, NY – It is one of the largest drug seizures from a truck on the U.S. – Canada border since it was closed for nonessential travel due to COVID-19 back in March.

Canadian border officers discovered $10M bust in a secondary inspection at the U.S.-Canada border of a tractor-trailer coming from the United States.

Canadian border officers found more than 100 packages of cocaine, or what they suspect was “Mama Coca,” a street name, concealed in a commercial load.

The unidentified male truck driver was arrested at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. 

This crossing links southern Ontario and western New York. The trucker was arrested after the Canadian border officers found more than $10 million worth of suspected coke during the inspection of a tractor-trailer entering Canada from the United States.

During the first inspection, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers, noticed something “off.” There were “anomalies in the packaging of the shipment.

The second inspection uncovered 117 kilograms of suspected Lady Caine in 104 packages concealed in the commercial load. The CBSA estimated the drugs had a street value of about $10.6 million, or $14 million for the Canadians.

There’s been an increase in the number of truckers arrested for drug seizures at the border during the Covid-19.

One trucker was arrested in April after the Canadian border officers seized $2.3 million worth of cocaine. They got this from a tractor-trailer at the Blue Water Bridge border crossing.

Christine Durocher, the CBSA’s regional director general for Southern Ontario stated:

“These cocaine seizures demonstrate that our officers remain vigilant and committed to ensuring that our borders are not used for illegal activity while travel restrictions at the border continue.”

Since the border closure due to the pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported a surge in drug seizures from commercial vehicles, like big trucks, at ports of entry in New York and Michigan.

Most of the seizures have involved marijuana coming in from Canada from 16 border points of entry.

In 2019, the ports of entry in the Buffalo division had 1,017 seizures. This totals more than 3,440 pounds of narcotics. That was a year ago.

This year, the Buffalo division had the largest number of seizures on the northern border. The the Detroit division came in at a close second.

In April when Canadian border officers seized over $3 million in suspected cocaine from a tractor-trailer. 

The $3 million bust took place at the Blue Water Bridge. A male truck driver arrived at the crossing. He was referred for a secondary examination since the police had suspicions. They found 19 kilograms of Big C.  

In September 2020, authorities have reported nearly a 1,000 percent increase in drugs seized along the Canadian border since the Covid-19 pandemic began. They have nearly 40,000 pounds of marijuana. That value is $100 million – $120 million seized. The surge is largely because of the legalization of weed in Canada.   

Kevin Kelly, who heads the Homeland Security Investigations field office in Buffalo, New York, told ABC News:

“Since March 16, we’ve seen a huge uptick in marijuana seizures at the ports of entry. What you’re seeing is traditional organized crime, Asian organized crime, East Indian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs — all having a piece or a stock in this sophisticated coordination of getting marijuana into the US. It’s well structured, it’s well choreographed, it’s a business model.”

Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes in 2018. Some of the states have legalized, or at least, decriminalized marijuana. The federal government, however, still has classified hash illegal. This helps support the hypothesize that this is why there is an uptick into the smuggling the drug into the U.S.

This isn’t the first big bust we’ve reported this week:

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Despite what Democrats might tell you, we have a massive border crisis underway… and it’s flooding our communities with drugs.

The United States Coast Guard seized a large number of drugs over the time span of two weeks.  The estimated street value for the drugs seized is over $200 million dollars.

Article Featured Image

Credit US Coast Guard

The Coast Guard cutter, the Harriet Lane, came into port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a large cache of seized drugs.  The ship was able to secure 12,100 pounds of cocaine and 5,759 pounds of marijuana.

The Coast Guard advised that the drug seizures were from ongoing operations that lasted around two weeks.  They estimated the street value of the drugs at $216 million dollars. 

The drugs were seized, according to Fox News from:

“12 separate law enforcement cases by two Coast Guard vessels, three U.S. Navy vessels, and two British Royal Navy vessels in both the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.”

Although there is little more information that has been released regarding the drugs seized during this operation, there have been other busts in the south Florida area, this time from the Customs and Border Patrol.

In August, the US Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Aviation Administration, and CBP Field operations performed an investigation on a suspicious aircraft. 

The Air and Marine Operations from Fort Lauderdale were informed that this aircraft was part of an ongoing investigation and needed further investigation.  Federal authorities moved in and grounded the flight for further inspection.

The Air and Marine Operations authorities located:

“18 assault/bolt action rifles with optics, six shotguns, 58 semi-automatic pistols, $20,312 in U.S. currency, and $2,618.53 in endorsed checks.”

All of the items were seized as evidence and the Homeland Security Investigations authorities placed two Venezuelan nationals under arrest.  They learned that the aircraft was supposed to be headed to St. Vincent.

In another bust, CBP announced that they had located and seized 8.5 pounds of cocaine from an express consignment carrier while at the Miami International Airport.  CBP estimates the street value of the drugs to be $100,000.00.

The CBP Port director for the Miami International Airport, Christopher D Maston, said:

“Transnational criminal organizations will stop at nothing to get illicit contraband into our country, and we must stay one step ahead of them to deter their activities.  Our officers are dedicated to keeping drugs and other paraphernalia out of our country and out of our communities.”

CBP reported that they were performing inspections of inbound consignment packages that were coming from Columbia and contained Moringa.  Moringa is a plant that comes from areas of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  The plant is used for food in those regions. 

CBP officers inspected these packages and noted something that did not seem to belong.  Officers located a green powder and a black tar substance that were in the packages containing the Moringa.

They seized the substances and sent them to a lab for testing.  In April, the tests came back which showed the substances were cocaine.

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MANHATTAN, NY –On September 1st, the Mexico’s Secretaria de Marina, the Mexican Navy, intercepted a boat filled with cocaine that was bound for New York.  The boat was stopped by Mexican authorities off of the Mexican State of Quintana Roo.

DEA Merida Resident Office and Mexico's Secretaria de Marina seize over 3 tons of cocaine from boat off the coast of Quintana RooPhotos courtesy of the DEA

In speaking of the major cocaine bust and the partnerships the law enforcement community has with the Mexican authorities, DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan spoke of the seizure, saying:

“Law enforcement thwarted cartel plans to saturate the American drug market with cocaine by intercepting over three tons of cocaine heading towards American towns. 

This international enforcement operation has saved lives and reemphasized law enforcement’s commitment to keeping America safe from drug trafficking, drug abuse, and violent crime.”

2,960 Kilograms of cocaine seized

The Acting Manhattan US Attorney, Audrey Strauss said:

“As alleged, these defendants are responsible for the attempted importation of more than three tons of cocaine into the United States.  Thanks to the work of the DEA and the Mexican Navy, the shipment was interdicted and the defendants are in custody and facing federal prosecution.”

Homeland Security New York Special Agent in Charge, Peter Fitzhugh added:

“Cartels continue to operate with no regard for laws or human life, trafficking tons of deadly narcotics across the border and using bribery and intimidation to further their reach with government officials.  With HIS’s continued partnership with DEA’s Strike Force, three more alleged drug trafficking defendants will now face justice and three tons of cocaine will not reach our communities.”

This drug interception and the arrest of three people occurred when the Mexican Navy spotted and tracked a boat that was going through the Caribbean Sea headed toward the Mexican city of Chetumal and the village of Mahaual.  For whatever reason, this boat acted in a manner which brought suspicion and the Mexican authorities decided to investigate.

The Mexican Navy caught up to the vessel which was 85 nautical miles off of the coast of Quintana Roo.  When they caught the boat, they boarded and searched it, finding approximately 2,960 kilograms of cocaine. 

As a result of the drug seizure, the Mexican authorities took the three occupants into custody which were later turned over to US federal law enforcement.

The occupants of the boat, Raymundo Montoya-Lopez, Abraham Alfonso Garcia-Montoya, and Felizardo Diaz-Hernandez, were all turned over to federal authorities in the United States for prosecution. 

All three people are from Sinaloa, Mexico and have been charged with conspiring to import cocaine into the United States.  This charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years with a maximum of life if they are convicted.

New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett said of the seizure and arrest:

“The combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, along with authorities in Mexico, have put this operation out of business and disrupted the transport of thousands of kilos of cocaine to our streets.  This case continues our commitment and partnership to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone who tries to sell these dangerous drugs in our communities.”

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea also weighed in, saying:

“This case is another illustration of our joint, ongoing responsibilities in eradicating international drug trafficking.  Our NYPD officers, working with our law enforcement partners and federal prosecutors, follow the facts anywhere in the world to achieve justice, in this case interdicting nearly three tons of cocaine off the coast of Mexico.”

Of course, this is yet another example of dangerous drugs coming from Mexico and, in at least this case, attempted to be brought into the United States.  This is something that President Trump has spoken about on many occasions and the democratic leaders all say this is not happening. 

BUFFALO, NY – On August 10th, federal agents with the US Customs and Border Protection selected a shipment which was supposed to be seven skids of lighting for additional examination. Upon further inspection, agents discovered almost two tons of marijuana at the Peace Bridge.

While performing the  inspection, they located 14 wooden pallets which contained numerous cardboard boxes.  Inside of the boxes were vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana. Agents weighed the drug which showed it to be a total of 3,836 pounds.  Federal agents estimated the street value of the drug to be more than $8 million dollars. 

Commercial wooden pallets containing marijuana.
Courtesy of CBP.gov

Jennifer De La O, the Port Director, commented on the seizure:

“These CBP Officers have remained vigilant and engaged as travel restrictions at the border continue.  They have never let their guard down and their discovery of another large marijuana seizure exemplifies their dedication to the CBP mission.” 

The U.S Customs and Border Protection reports that they have seen numerous drug seizures along the border with Canada, and specifically in the Buffalo field office. They report from October 1st, 2019, through August 10th, 2020, they have seized more than 1,500 narcotics weighing over 27,000 pounds.

This drug bust was not the largest reported out of the Buffalo field office this year. On June 25th, agents at the Peace Bridge seized 9,472 pounds of marijuana that was located in a commercial shipment that was supposed to contain storage containers.

Vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana.
Courtesy of CBP.gov

CBP reported that a 26-year-old male who is a citizen of India and a Canadian Permanent Resident, was driving a commercial vehicle pulling a tractor trailer.

The driver declared that he was hauling shipping containers.  An inspection scan was performed on the truck, and the CBP officers noticed some oddities within the storage bins. After a tailgate exam, they discovered vacuumed packages which appeared to be marijuana. 

In completing a manual search of the vehicle and contents, they discovered 55 wooden pallet boxes that held marijuana in them.  The total weight of the seizure was 9,482 pounds, with an estimated street value of $20 million dollars. CBP notes that this is the second largest drug seizure recorded on the northern border and ranks at 23rd for the entire United States.

Port director Jennifer De La O commented once again:

“This was an excellent job by our officers from start to finish. From recognizing a shipment that needed further screening, to the identification of the anomaly during the secondary scan, to the coordination with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) our officers are committed to intercepting these illicit drugs from being smuggled in.” 

The driver, who was not identified, was referred for federal prosecution which was accepted by the US Attorney’s Office.  The man was charged with possessing with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, and importation of marijuana into the United States. 

U.S. Attorney Kennedy stated:

“For the third time in as many weeks, the diligence of US Customs and Border Protection Officers has resulted in the seizure of literally tons of illegal controlled substance destined for our country.”

He added:

“In just three weeks, CBP officers have prevented thousands of pounds of illicit drugs, valued at nearly $30,000,000, from entering our country.  We will remain vigilant to protect our border from those who seek to profit from the importation of these illegal substances, as they not only fuel the violent drug trafficking organizations who distribute them but jeopardize the health and well-being of those, including minors, who use them.  Because the health, safety, and security of every American matters, do too do our borders.”

Kevin Kelly, the HSI Special Agent in Charge said:

“The resurgence of large-scale illicit marijuana seizures is alarming and brazen given the public health crisis.  HSI and CBP will always work together to thwart and deter those criminal organizations that attempt to exploit our borders.”
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