Four men charged for illegal gun importation and export of illegally grown cannabis across Canada/USA border via helicopter

| Morton Robertson

US and Canadian authorities have arrested four and seized over 800 cannabis plants and dried cannabis from an illegal grow operation, and approximately 400 grams of suspected cocaine, as well as suspected restricted and prohibited handguns.

The arrests and seizures are the result of a 16-month joint investigation with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Ontario and Quebec with the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) – Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team

Police say the organization was found to be cultivating cannabis outside of federal regulations in the Greater Toronto Area and used a helicopter to fly cannabis across the Canada-US border. The helicopter would fly at low altitudes to avoid detection. An investigation into the origin of the handguns is ongoing.

In an unrelated issue, US also authorities also say they recently intercepted two men entering Alexandria Bay in upstate New York from Canada in a rented boat with approximately 200 grams of marijuana, more than 80 grams of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil, and 9 methylenedioxy – methamphetamine (MDMAEcstasy) pills, 14 Adderall pills and an amount of hashish butter.

US and Canadian authorities have seized nearly 30,000 pounds of Canadian cannabis destined for the US since it was closed earlier this year due to concerns with COVID-19.

In June, the same agency said they had intercepted the largest cannabis bust at the US Canada border ever, worth $20 million.

“The resurgence of large-scale illicit marijuana seizures is alarming and brazen given the public health crisis,” said Kevin Kelly, the HSI special agent in charge in June.

Canadian authorities also announced more than $10 million worth of cannabis seized from two Ontario warehouses in June, 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.