U.S. authorities announced today that they had seized more than 100 kilograms of suspected cannabis from a Canadian man trying to cross into the US at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry between Ontario and upstate New York.
On January 10, a commercial truck driven by Xiao Liu, 27, a resident of Canada was searched by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBO) who asked to see inside the sleeper cab of the vehicle. Upon further inspection, the officer noticed large black bags filling the sleeper cab from floor to ceiling.
The driver told the border agent that he was carrying a shipment of wax and said the black bags were the property of a friend who asked him to transport them to Buffalo, NY. Liu was then referred to X-ray inspection for further processing.
Liu faces charges of a a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
The subsequent scan of the tractor trailer revealed a large anomaly in the bunk area of the tractor. An officer then physically inspected the tractor cab. Upon entering the cab, the officer immediately detected a smell consistent with cannabis, and observed hockey bags stacked from the floor to the ceiling in the bunk area of the tractor cab.
The officer opened one bag and noticed multiple vacuum sealed bags of a green leafy substance, suspected to be marijuana. Liu was taken into custody at that time. CBO officers then offloaded a total of 30 hockey bags which included 1,139 vacuum sealed bags of suspected cannabis weighing approximately 1,281 pounds.
The complaint is the result of an investigation by Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy, and Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.
Similarly large seizures at the Peace Bridge Crossing between the U.S and Canada, as well as other border crossings have brought in record numbers of cannabis seizures in the past year, especially following the closure of the border between the two countries on March 21, 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.
In June of last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers announced a seizure of more than $20 million dollars worth of cannabis at the same crossing.
American officials have previously noted an increase in large drug seizures at the Canadian border, not only for cannabis. According to US officials, from October 1, 2019 through June 27, 2020, ports within the Buffalo Field Office alone, which covers 16 ports of entry throughout New York State, have made over 700 narcotic seizures totaling more than nearly 9,153 kg (over 20,000 lbs), what they says is an increase of approximately 2,000% from fiscal year 2019 during the same time period.
“The resurgence of large-scale illicit marijuana seizures is alarming and brazen given the public health crisis,” said Kevin Kelly HSI special agent in charge. “HSI and CBP will always work together to thwart and deter those criminal organizations that attempt to exploit our borders.”
At the Peace Bridge Cargo Facility made a Northern Border record seizure of 9,472 pounds of marijuana that was discovered within a commercial shipment manifested as storage containers.
Canadian authorities also recently announced more than $10 million worth of cannabis seized from two Ontario warehouses, destined for the US.
The first, on May 22 in Brampton, BSO workers noticed anomalies in a load of gardening mulch to be sent to the US. Employees spent nine hours looking through the 5,400 kilogram shipment of mulch, locating over 685 kilograms of suspected cannabis.
The second seizure, on May 28, was another 800 kilograms of suspected cannabis that was hidden in plastic kitchen containers at a Mississauga warehouse. The product was detected by a drug-sniffing dog. The products were also ready to be shipped to the US.
“Large-scale marijuana trafficking is not an isolated crime,” said Kevin Kelly, HSI Buffalo Special Agent-in-Charge in today’s announcement from the US. “Smugglers are often connected to larger criminal syndicates who profit from a wide variety of crimes, and we must continue to dismantle all forms of their illicit activity.”
In April, a nurse from Ontario was stopped at the US border with 150 pounds of marijuana while on her way to a Detroit hospital to help them manage the Covid-19 pandemic. And earlier that month, US border officials found and seized 31 kg of cannabis from a truck at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge at an Ontario/New York border crossing.
In May of this year, US Homeland Security and U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Port Angeles Station seized a 23-foot Bayliner and 497 pounds of marijuana that entered US waters from Canada.
On June 5, a man was found unconscious in the Detroit River tied to a “bushel” of over 200kg of cannabis, near Celeron Island, a small island on the US side of the river. According to US officials, he was unconscious and had a tow strap attached to his body, with the other end of the strap tied to a bushel of marijuana. The man had told officials he had been using a submersible device to ferry cannabis, cocaine and cash between the US and Canada.
Last year, US officials said they had seen a significant spike in seizures of cannabis coming from Canada since legalization on October 19, 2018, including one incident of a low-flying helicopter near the border tipping authorities off to 50kg of cannabis in hockey bags hidden in the woods.