BUFFALO, N.Y. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Peace Bridge Cargo Facility in Buffalo, New York, made a northern border record seizure of 9,472 pounds of marijuana that was discovered within a commercial shipment manifested as storage containers.
On June 25, CBP officers referred a tractor trailer being driven by a 26-year-old male who is a citizen of India and permanent resident of Canada. During a nonintrusive inspection scan of the truck, CBP officers noticed anomalies within the storage bins, performed a tailgate exam and discovered vacuum-sealed packages filled with what appeared to be marijuana.
A complete physical examination of the rig revealed 55 wooden pallet boxes containing vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana. In total, officers seized 9,472 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $20 million. This is the largest narcotics seizure recorded on the northern border and ranks 23rd in the U.S. during the past 5 years.
“This was an excellent job by our officers from start to finish,” said Jennifer De La O, port director. “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 (HSI), our officers are committed to intercepting these illicit drugs from being smuggled in.”
Federal prosecution of the driver was accepted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the driver was subsequently charged with a criminal complaint with possessing with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and importation of marijuana into the U.S. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
“For the third time in as many weeks, the diligence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers has resulted in the seizure of literally tons of illegal controlled substances destined for our country,” said James P. Kennedy Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. “In just three weeks, CBP officers have prevented thousands of pounds of illicit drugs, valued at nearly $30,000,000, from entering our country.”
Kevin Kelly, HSI special agent in charge, described the recent resurgence of “large-scale” marijuana seizures as “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,” Kelly added.
This seizure adds to the already huge increase in drug seizures within the Buffalo Field Office. Between Oct. 1, 2019, and June 27, 2020, ports within the Buffalo Field Office, which covers 16 ports of entry throughout New York State, have more than 700 narcotic seizures totaling more than 20,180 pounds — an increase of about 2,000% from fiscal year 2019 during the same time period.
“The work of the officers has been incredible and their dedication to CBP’s enforcement mission is evident in these recent large-load narcotics seizures,” said Rose Brophy, director of the Buffalo Field Office. “Criminal organizations are not going to stop just because the border has restricted travel and CBP officers continue to work and ensure our borer is secure.”