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 Arcade Champion: Simon

Registered: 10/08/11
Posts: 17,561
U.S. cocaine dealers using Canadian truckers to smuggle
    #601721 - 12/16/11 12:28 PM (4 years, 10 months ago)


For several months, FBI agents in Southern California watched as large duffel bags and boxes changed hands in parking lots, homes and at a busy truck stop — part of an investigation into the lucrative trafficking of cocaine from Mexico to Canada. Pictured, file photo of cocaine.

FBI agents in Southern California investigating the lucrative trafficking of cocaine from Mexico to Canada say large transport trucks have become the preferred mode of shipping the drug across borders.

This past week, federal agents swooped in on several homes in the Los Angeles area and arrested three men — Luis Carrillo Torres, George Diaz and Luis Enrique Lopez — who are suspected of being involved in the growing enterprise and of having links to two Quebec truckers allegedly found with near-record amounts of cocaine earlier this year.

According to an FBI affidavit released after the arrests, the men and their associates had been under surveillance for months. Agents watched as large duffle bags and boxes changed hands in parking lots, homes and at a busy truck stop.

“Typically, tractor-trailer trucks are used to move the cocaine from Southern California, where it is brought in from Mexico, into Canada,” wrote Special Agent Jennifer Rudy.

On April 9, police watched as two men moved bags from a Mini Cooper into the trunk of a Mazda at a Starbucks parking lot. The Mazda was followed to Torres’ residence and then to another home. Police served a search warrant at the home and found $600,000 in the trunk of the Mazda. They also found BlackBerrys with hundreds of messages with someone in Canada named “Buddy,” who was ordering cocaine, the affidavit said.

On Aug. 8, police followed Diaz’s Ford F-150 pickup to a McDonald’s parking lot. The driver parked next to a Ford Crown Victoria with two men inside. A large duffle bag was transferred from the pickup to the trunk of the Crown Victoria.

The two men in the Crown Victoria then drove to a hotel. A few hours later, a tractor trailer with Quebec licence plates pulled into the hotel parking lot. The duffle bag was moved from the trunk of the Crown Victoria and put inside the cab of the tractor trailer, the affidavit said.

Two days later, the tractor trailer was stopped by police near Las Vegas. Nevada State Patrol discovered 205 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $16.4 million. It was the second-largest seizure of its kind in that state, police said.

The truck driver, Gaston D’Anjou, of Quebec, was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking offences. He has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer, Jean-Pierre Rancourt, said Friday he is seeking to quash the charges on the grounds that police conducted an illegal search.

At the end of August, the Ford F-150 pickup was followed to a cul-de-sac near a truck stop. A burgundy transport truck with a Quebec licence plate pulled up behind the pickup. It was too dark to see what happened next. But a few weeks later, the pickup left Diaz’s residence and returned to the truck stop. This time, boxes were transferred from the pickup to the burgundy transport truck, the affidavit said.

On Sept. 27, New York State Police stopped the transport truck and found 116 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated $4.5 million. The driver, Alain Thuot, of Quebec, was arrested and now reportedly faces federal charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

On Nov. 19, a man emerged from Lopez’s garage carrying two black bags and put them in a Chevy Tahoe. A police officer stopped the Tahoe and found more than $600,000 in cash wrapped in plastic inside a speaker box. The driver claimed he was unaware that the money was in the vehicle, the affidavit said.

During the searches of the homes of Torres, Diaz and Lopez last week, police seized 28 cars — including a Lotus Exige, Porsche Carrera and Range Rover — approximately $300,000 in cash, a few dozen kilograms of cocaine and weapons, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

None of the charges against the California men or the Canadian men have been proven in court.

Messages left with the Canadian Trucking Alliance were not returned Friday.

Marc Cadieux, CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association, said incidents of drivers being involved in drug smuggling have been isolated.

What is more common, he said, are criminals surreptitiously placing drugs onto trucks without the driver’s knowledge.

“Criminals use our transport mode to achieve their ends,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the carrier or the driver are aware.”

A 2010 RCMP criminal intelligence report said cocaine is the most common illicit good intercepted in commercial trucks entering Canada. The report, obtained by Vancouver freelance journalist Stanley Tromp under access to information, warned that more commercial truck drivers — who make an average of $858 a week — could be getting sucked in by organized crime’s big payoffs. A driver, for instance, might be paid $28,000 to transport $12 million worth of cocaine from California to Montreal, the report said.

Drivers who fail to deliver their cargo or lose their cargo are often subject to extortion, even beatings, kidnappings and murder, the report said.

The Canada Border Services Agency reports that there have been 41 seizures of cocaine this year from commercial and personal vehicles, with an estimated value of almost $25 million.

Read more: http://www.canada.com/news/cocaine+dealers+using+Canadian+truckers+smuggle+police/5769224/story.html#ixzz1gigucWyS

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