Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 1.5 tons of pot from a truck crossing into the United States from Canada at a Buffalo, New York border checkpoint, federal law enforcement officials announced on Tuesday. The seizure of 1,517 kilograms of cannabis was made on June 13 at the Peace Bridge crossing linking the Niagara region of Ontario with Buffalo.
After diverting the truck to a secondary inspection area as it attempted to cross the border, agents with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered 58 cardboard boxes hidden between pallets of peat moss being carried by the truck. The cardboard boxes held thousands of vacuum-sealed packages containing a total of more than 3,300 pounds of suspected marijuana. Officials estimated the value of the seized cannabis at approximately $5 million.
Rose Brophy, the director of the CBP field office in Buffalo, said at a press conference on Tuesday that last week’s discovery was a record-breaking bust.
“This load in and of itself is the largest seizure in the entry port of Buffalo’s history,” she said.
Alleged Driver Faces Life In Prison
The alleged driver of the truck, Gurpreet Singh, a 30-year-old citizen of India, was arrested and has been charged with unlawfully importing and possessing with intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison upon conviction. Singh has made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate and is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for June 17.
James P. Kennedy Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, noted that with the U.S. border with Canada closed to all but essential traffic because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, smugglers have altered their methods and are making more attempts to move illicit goods through commercial modes of transportation.
“Despite the current travel restrictions at our international crossings, the criminal element has not curtailed their efforts to profit from illicit drug trafficking,” he said in a press release.
Kevin Kelly, the special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations’ Buffalo border enforcement security team, said that the seized marijuana was likely headed for destinations beyond Upstate New York.
“This marijuana will probably hit Buffalo and proceed either eastbound into New York City or into other major metropolitan cities,” he said. “The bulk of this marijuana would probably not stay in the city of Buffalo.”
This was the second large seizure of cannabis at the Peace Bridge border crossing in less than two weeks. On June 5, CBP officers confiscated more than 800 kilograms of marijuana worth an estimated $2 million from a truck attempting to cross into the U.S. Since March 21, more than 8,700 pounds of illegal drugs, mostly marijuana, has been confiscated at the Peace Bridge crossing.