Border Patrol Intercepts Nearly $10M at U.S.-Mexico Border in Texas

A massive bust at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, was announced last Friday, and law enforcement agents presented the seizure with stacked bales of cannabis in a wall-like structure that was posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

In a single swoop, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO) officers assigned to the World Trade Bridge seized over two tons of cannabis. Border agents searched a suspected freight truck and found it was loaded 4,466 pounds of pot, with a street value of nearly 10 million dollars.

The bust took place last Thursday, on Sept. 14 at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo. A CBP officer flagged a 2023 freightliner tractor trailer that claimed to ship home goods for secondary inspection. And after a thorough examination using the border patrol’s non-intrusive inspection system, CBP officers discovered 177 packages containing a total of 4,466 pounds of alleged cannabis within the trailer. Law enforcement agents say it has a street value of $9,904,204, outlined in a Sept. 15 news release.

“Our CBP officers continue to maintain strict vigilance in our cargo environment and this week they came up big, with a seizure of more than two tons of marijuana,” said Port Director Albert Flores, Laredo Port of Entry. “We have not seen as much marijuana lately compared to the harder narcotics but it underscores the ever changing nature of the drug threat our officers face on a daily basis.”

CBP agents are primarily concerned with cannabis and drugs that are headed into the country, instead of headed the other way.

A photo shows the packages containing 4,466 pounds of cannabis seized by CBP officers at World Trade Bridge. CBP agents seized the cannabis, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are currently investigating the seizure. 

CPB is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry. CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations with the primary goal of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S., but also enforcing  lawful international travel and trade.

Cannabis seizures along the U.S.-Mexico border, which stretches nearly 2,000 miles, have actually fallen dramatically in recent years, aligning neatly with adult-use cannabis laws in the West: Seizure fell from about 1,350 metric tons in 2013 to around 70 metric tons in 2022, according to CBP statistics.

Cannabis Crossing the Border From Both Ends

The U.S.-Mexico border is not the only borderline you need to worry about in 2023.

In 2019, border patrol seized $100,000 worth of cannabis in upstate New York near Canada.

Border Patrol agents and police officers seized approximately 50 pounds of cannabis in upstate New York in 2019  in a traffic stop near the U.S-Canadian border. Officials estimated the value of the pot at more than $100,000, according to a press release from CPB.

Agents assigned to the Massena Border Patrol Station were on duty when they pulled over a red pickup truck in the parking lot of a hotel in Hogansburg, New York. After requesting assistance from other nearby law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol agents were joined by officers from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police (SRMTP) and the New York State Police (NYSP).

After a canine unit with the SRMTP smelled something in the vehicle, the officers discovered the cannabis hidden in luggage which was stowed in the extended cab of the pickup truck.

Up north, some people are doing it by accident: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) released a press release on June 26 as a reminder for people traveling for the holidays that no cannabis is allowed across the border.

For those who plan to traverse the border between the U.S. and Canada, CBSA recommends tips such as planning ahead for border wait times, saving time with an Advance Declaration, and having travel documents handy. The topic of cannabis was also shared in this list as well.

The section entitled “Cannabis: Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.” refers to the restrictions of cannabis being brought across the border. “Bringing cannabis across the border in any form, including oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada is a serious criminal offence subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada. A medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization.”

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Woman Arrested Smuggling Cannabis Internationally Thought She Had Handbags in Her Suitcase

A woman arrested in Dublin, Ireland for cannabis smuggling allegedly told the authorities she did not break any laws intentionally as she thought she was merely transporting a suitcase full of handbags.

According to a report by the Irish Examiner, Yejieda Johnson, a 26-year-old London woman, was arrested at Dublin Airport over the weekend with 37 kilograms of cannabis and charged with unlawful importation and possession of drugs/having them for sale or supply. 

Irish authorities, known as the “Garda Síochána” estimated the street value of the cannabis to be around €740,000 or just under $800k USD (though anyone with access to a calculator or 4th grade math skills can figure out the bulk price on all that is probably closer to $80k even in Europe).

According to the Examiner, Garda Tom McLoughlin appeared in court to advocate against bail for Johnson. McLoughlin alleged that Johnson had been “caught in the act” of a “very deliberate attempt to conceal 37 kg of cannabis.” McLoughlin stated during cross-examination that Johnson insisted she had been carrying handbags and “never touched” any cannabis. 

McLoughlin went on to claim that Johnson was a “clear and immediate flight risk,” due to her lack of an Irish home address or family connections in the area. Johnson allegedly departed from John F. Kennedy airport in New York City and was supposed to get a connecting flight from Dublin to her home in London on Saturday.

The Examiner Report went on to indicate that Johnson maintained her innocence to the court, pleading for bail. Johnson told the court she had lived in London all her life and currently lived with family members. She told the court she was a mother of one and had previously worked in a hotel spa and coffee shop though she was unemployed at the time of the hearing. She swore to the court she would return to Ireland and prove her innocence. 

“I have no reason not to come back, I’m innocent,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know what was in those cases. I will not run off or anything like that. I’m innocent, I’m not a criminal.”

According to another report in Sunday World, defense barrister Karl Monahan argued for bail, saying that Johnson could wait in Irish prison for up to two years before her actual trial began. He also argued the street value and exact nature of the drugs had yet to be officially established, which could explain the wildly high figure mentioned above (I did the math and even dimed out at $10 a gram it’s only $367k).

Oddly enough, another woman flying from Amsterdam to Dublin was also arrested at Dublin Airport the same day with a suitcase containing 10 kilograms of ketamine. Authorities did not indicate that there was any reason to believe the incidents were related, but they did indicate the ketamine had a street value of €600,000 which actually might be kind of low if you sold it by the gram, but I digress.

The following quote was given to the Irish Mirror by a Garda spokesperson:

“Gardaí arrested two women on Saturday 2nd September 2023 as part of two separate seizures made by Revenue officers at Dublin Airport. The seizures comprised 37kgs of herbal cannabis, worth an estimated €740,000, and approximately 10kgs of suspected ketamine worth €600,000. Two women in their 20s were arrested by Gardaí and later detained. They have since been charged with regards to these separate seizures, and appeared before the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin this morning, Monday, 4th September 2023.”

A spokesperson for Revenue also told the Irish Mirror “The illicit drugs were discovered when Revenue officers stopped and searched the baggage of passengers who had disembarked flights from New York and Amsterdam.”

Yejieda Johnson was ultimately granted bail for €1,000 plus an additional €10,000 surety. She would also be required to leave her London address, phone number and other such assurances that she would return to Ireland for trial. She was remanded back into Irish custody until she appears again in court on September 11.

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Half a Million Fentanyl Pills Disguised as Oxycodone Confiscated by San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office in One Week

Last week was busy for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, who reported Monday that they confiscated over 500,000 fentanyl tablets that were disguised as ”M30” oxycodone pills. One of the primary reasons people overdose on fentanyl is because they think they are taking a less powerful opioid, typically disguised as an oxycodone or hydrocodone pill.

In one bust, a person at a clothing store was allegedly selling a lot more than just clothes: At 10:56 p.m. Friday, police in Hesperia, California served two search warrants at The House of Drip, a clothing store after officers caught wind of a drug operation taking place there. Officers from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department suspect that M30 fentanyl pills, as well as cannabis, were being sold at the business.

“Lenin Martinez Arevalo, 29, of Hesperia, was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of possessing or purchasing drugs for sale, transportation/sales of drugs, and possessing drugs for sale,” the Daily Press in Victorville reports.

Police said they found more than 4,000 fentanyl pills, cannabis, 227 boxes of THC resin, 35 boxes of psilocybin-infused chocolate, and $1,300 in cash while searching the House of Drip.

M30 fentanyl pills are particularly dangerous because they are designed to mimic the look of prescription oxycodone pills, or to a lesser extent—Adderall, Xanax, and other drugs.

A Bigger Problem in San Bernardino County

This was just a fraction of the total number of fentanyl pills the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Gangs/Narcotics Division scooped up last week. They confiscated over half a million fentanyl tablets.

“Last week, the San Bernardino CountySheriff’s Department Gangs/Narcotics Division seized over 115 pounds of fentanyl pills, equivalent to roughly 517,500 tablets. These pills are counterfeit pharmaceuticals containing fentanyl.

Last October, the San Bernardino County Health Department issued a health advisory to spread awareness to the dangers of fentanyl due to a huge uptick in overdose deaths in the county.

In 2021, there were 354 fentanyl overdose deaths in San Bernardino County.

Local health officials launched a campaign to raise awareness due to an unprecedented rise in fentanyl overdoses and poisonings in San Bernardino County. In June, San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health officials stated that the campaign will carry out through the year, with the slogan “Fentanyl Doesn’t Care. But We Do.”

“There is a misperception that fentanyl only affects drug addicts when in reality, it’s affecting a broad segment of our community,” Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe told the Daily Press last summer “This campaign will help shed light on the reality of the fentanyl crisis and help us save lives.”

The health department joined the “Stop the Void and the INTO LIGHT Project” to develop a media campaign targeting geographic areas in San Bernardino County that are prone to a high rate of fentanyl overdoses, with special consideration for young adults and “at-risk underserved communities.”

DEA’s Battle with Fake M30 Pills

San Bernardino County is just one region in California, but the problem stretches across all of the U.S. Data shows that in 2021, nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses involving fentanyl and fake opioid prescriptions.

“​​Counterfeit pills are nearly identical to actual prescription medications,” the DEA says in a Drug Fact Sheet. “The majority of counterfeit pills resemble oxycodone 30mg pills (M30s), but can also mimic hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), Adderall, and other medications. There are indications that drug trafficking organizations are specifically targeting kids and teens by creating counterfeit pills in a variety of shapes and bright colors to appeal to that age group. Counterfeit M30 pills can vary in color from white to blue. The best way to avoid counterfeit medication is to take only medications prescribed by a licensed medical professional and dispensed by a registered pharmacist.”

As little as 2 mg of fentanyl can be deadly enough to stop breathing, and death is swift. That means taking just one counterfeit pill can result in death, especially if the person does not have a tolerance. On the other hand, 30 mg of oxycodone is maximum strength, which is strong but less likely to cause death than a smaller amount of fentanyl.

“Distributors in the United States are selling counterfeit pills on social media, appealing to a younger audience that use these apps,” the DEA continues. “Minors and young adults experimenting, as well as regular substance users, believe they are buying authentic oxycodone, Adderall, Xanax, or other medicines, but are unwittingly purchasing counterfeit pills that contain lethal amounts of drugs, usually fentanyl and methamphetamine.”

Fentanyl is around 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times stronger than heroin. And how widespread is the problem? Twenty-six percent of tablets tested in a DEA laboratory contained a lethal dose of fentanyl, the agency says. 

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Mexican Navy Seizes More Than Four Tons of Cocaine After High-Speed Chase at Sea

Dramatic new footage released by Mexico’s Navy shows officers carrying out a major drug bust after a high-speed chase at sea.

The footage, which has been widely reported on in the media, depicts a pair of operations carried out by the Navy; in one, an officer can be seen descending from an overhead helicopter to arrive on a boat that was carrying a large amount of drugs.

According to CTV News, “Mexican authorities say they have seized some 9,700 pounds of cocaine during two operations on Aug. 22 and 23 in the Pacific Ocean.”

“Both operations resulted in high-speed boat chases at sea,” CTV News reported. “Mexican authorities say they also found more than 5,000 litres of fuel. Eleven people were detained and handed over to the prosecutor’s office.”

Cocaine trafficking has exploded in recent years.

A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released earlier this year indicated that production of cocaine had skyrocketed to record levels after lagging for a stretch during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a disruptive effect on drug markets. With international travel severely curtailed, producers struggled to get their product to market. Night clubs and bars were shut as officials ramped up their attempts to control the virus, causing demand to slump for drugs like cocaine that are often associated with those settings,” the report said.

“However, the most recent data suggests this slump has had little impact on longer-term trends. The global supply of cocaine is at record levels. Almost 2,000 tons was produced in 2020, continuing a dramatic uptick in manufacture that began in 2014, when the total was less than half of today’s levels.”

According to the report, the surge in cocaine has “partly [been] a result of an expansion in coca bush cultivation, which doubled between 2013 and 2017, hit a peak in 2018, and rose sharply again in 2021.”

“But it is also due to improvements in the process of conversion from coca bush to cocaine hydrochloride. In parallel, there has been a continuing growth in demand, with most regions showing steadily rising numbers of users over the past decade. Although these increases can be partly explained by population growth, there is also a rising prevalence of cocaine use. Interceptions by law enforcement have also been on the rise, at a higher speed than production, meaning that interdiction has contained the growth of the global amount of cocaine available for consumption,” the report stated

Given all that, perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that news of major cocaine busts seem to surface regularly these days.

In June, law enforcement officials in Uruguay broke up an international drug ring after police there were alerted to half a dozen surfboards that contained a total of 50kg (110lb) of cocaine.

Three Italians were arrested as part of the bust.

In May, police in Hong Kong seized $82.97 million worth of cocaine and cannabis. 

And in February, law enforcement authorities in New Zealand announced that they had sezied “3.2 tonnes of cocaine afloat” in the Pacific Ocean, saying they had taken roughly a half-billion dollars worth of the drug out of circulation.

The report from the United Nations explained that consolidation has upended the cocaine trade in one of the drug’s longstanding hubs, Colombia.

“The cocaine trade in Colombia was once controlled by just a few major players. As a result of a fragmentation of the criminal landscape following the demobilization of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in 2016, it now involves criminal groups of all sizes, structures and objectives,” the report said. “But, signs of consolidation of some of these groups have recently emerged. These developments have led to an increasing presence of foreign actors in Colombia. Mexican and Balkan criminal groups have moved closer to the centre of production to gain access to supplies and wholesale quantities of cocaine. These foreign groups are not aiming to take control of territory. Instead, they are trying to make supply lines more efficient. Their presence is helping to incentivize coca bush cultivation and finance all stages of the supply chain.” 

It continued: “In established cocaine markets, the proportion of the general population using the drug is high. But these markets only cover around one-fifth of the global population. If the prevalence in other regions increases to match established markets, the number of users globally would increase tremendously because of the large underlying population. This type of market convergence has already been happening in the case of Western and Central Europe, where purity levels and prices have harmonised with the United States, although prevalence of cocaine use in Western and Central Europe has not yet reached the level in the United States.”

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Son of Infamous Jimmy Chagra Arrested in Texas on Drug Charges

Infamous (and now deceased) El Paso drug trafficker Jimmy Chagra’s son, 44-year-old Jamiel Alexander Chagra Nichols, was arrested for allegedly selling cocaine, fentanyl, and LSD. Some of his clients included Fort Bliss soldiers, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials said. 

The El Paso Times reports that the special agents arrested Nichols on Friday, August 18. It’s currently estimated that five Texans die every day, on average, from a fentanyl overdose. In April of this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched a $10 million effort, the “One Pill Kills” campaign, to combat the fentanyl crisis, including sending overdose-reversing meds (Narcan) to all 254 counties. 

The news of Nichols’ arrest comes after authorities allegedly found over 21,900 dosages of LSD at his El Paso home during a multi-agency drug investigation, DPS officials said. The search warrant that led to the drug seizure and Nichols’s arrest was carried out by the Fentanyl Overdose Response Team of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in El Paso, who paired up with Texas DPS special agents. His arrest was a long time in the making, resulting from a six-month-long investigation, although due to his ancestry, it’s safe to assume that Nichols has been on the government’s list for some time. 

Jamiel Alexander Chagra Nichols, courtesy El Paso County Sheriff’s Office

According to El Paso County Jail records, Nichols now faces four state counts of manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance. Nichols was released from jail Monday on a total surety bond of $28,000.  

Nichols’s notorious father is Jamiel Alexander “Jimmy” Chagra, who made a name for himself as El Paso’s most wanted drug trafficker of the 1970s. Las Vegas City Life once described him as “the undisputed marijuana kingpin of the Western world” (he also dealt heavily in cocaine). 

The son of a rug merchant family, Chagra originally worked as a carpet salesman before breaking into the drug smuggling trade in 1969. He trafficked drugs from both Mexico and Columbia using planes and boats (which still happens; recently, the feds seized 223 pounds of cocaine and arrested two people headed toward Long Beach from Columbia). 

Chagra was also known for his epic, high-stakes gambling, which, by all accounts, he not only loved but used to launder money earned through drug trafficking. Before his arrest, he was estimated to be worth approximately $100 million ($500 million today). Charga’s downfall can be marked to November 21, 1978, when Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kerr was shot near his home by two men who fired 19 bullets at his car. Kerr lived; his only injuries sustained were some minor glass cuts, but law enforcement was officially ready to get Chagra senior. 

In February 1979, the OG Chagra was arrested on trafficking charges. He’d appear before Judge John Wood, nicknamed “Maximum John” due to his reputation for giving out the maximum sentence on drug crimes. Chagra faced a possible life sentence. He attempted to bribe Maximum John. It didn’t work. So, he arranged to have him assassinated, eventually admitting to hiring, of all people, hitman Charles Harrelson, who, in this ongoing father-son story, is dad to actor and cannabis lover Woody Harrelson (whose new cannabis lounge, The Woods, located in West Hollywood, California, is now open for business).

LSD found during a search of Nichols’ home in El Paso, courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety

On May 29, 1979, Wood was murdered. He was shot in the back outside his home and died as a result, making him the first federal judge to die from an assassination in more than a century. Chagra went to court on his drug charges and was found guilty in August 1979 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Harrelson (senior) was also eventually caught and convicted of being the gunman, thanks to Chagra talking about the assassination when his brother, Joe Chagra, visited him in prison after the feds bugged the rooms of the Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, where Chagra resided. 

Joe Chagra allegedly tried for a plea deal for his involvement and served six and a half years in prison of his ten-year sentence. He was released but died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 1996. 

Jimmy Chagra’s wife, Elizabeth, also went to prison for 30 years for delivering the payout money. Charles Harrelson was slapped with two consecutive life terms plus five more years. And Chagra was acquitted of Wood’s murder but found guilty of obstructing justice and conspiring to smuggle drugs. Due to health reasons, he was released on December 9, 2003, with rumors circulating that he was placed in the Witness Protection Program. He died from cancer on July 25, 2008, in a trailer camp in Mesa, Arizona.

While the family’s story is already juicy enough for a major studio to turn it into a mini-series, as for how the current generation’s stories end, we’ll have to continue covering the Nichols case for the latest in the Chagra epic drama. 

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Oklahoma Sheriff Auctions Off Seized Pot Farm

An illegal pot farm is up for grabs on an auctioning website, and law enforcement officers from a sheriff’s office in Oklahoma are the ones selling it. After a surge in both legal and illegal cannabis operations, seized assets are left behind in the aftermath.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office in Tishomingo, Oklahoma posted the seized farm on, a Maryland-based auction website, featuring a 19.24-acre lot near Coleman. Bids will be available from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13 at an online auction. 

Other seized items are up from grabs as well. The list of seized assets include grow lights, light controllers, HVAC systems, wall fans, water pumps, refrigerators, etc.

The opening bid is $755,006, and a single $25,035.00 deposit, including a $35 nonrefundable processing fee, is required to participate. Deposits must be received here by Bid4Assets no later than the end of day on Wednesday, September 6. 

“We’re looking to find buyers who will take ownership of this property and use it responsibly, which was certainly not happening under the previous owners,” Johnston County Sheriff Gary Dodd said in a statement. “Let it be known throughout the county that if you use your farm to grow illegally, we will seize it and we will sell it.”

The bid comes with the following disclaimers: “Johnston County Sheriff’s Office retains the right to reject any and all bids for any reason. Johnston County Sheriff’s Office may withdraw this property from the auction at any time before or during the sale. Johnston County Sheriff’s Office reserves the right to cancel the sale of a property at any time prior to the issuance of the deed.”

Local and state law enforcement agents periodically raid illegal grow operations, seizing millions of dollars’ worth of illegal cannabis. At one farm near Coleman, authorities reportedly seized about 20,000 illegally grown cannabis plants valued at over $30 million. 

The Oklahoman reports that in a news release, Bid4Assets said it “collaborated” with sheriffs and attorneys to pass legislation allowing foreclosure auctions to be conducted online.

On May 25, 2022, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 976, spearheaded by Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt.

Oklahoma’s black market for cannabis has been a major issue.

In 2021, a senior senator from Oklahoma sought millions of dollars in federal funds to battle illegal cannabis growing operations in the state.

Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, asked for $4 million in federal funds to help Oklahoma drug law enforcement agents fight illegal operations, according to local television station KFOR.

The illicit operations have frustrated the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. KFOR reports that the bureau’s director, Donnie Anderson, has expressed worry if international drug organizations and cartels could move into Oklahoma to take advantage of medical cannabis.

As Anderson and other state officials see it, those organizations and cartels are procuring a legitimate medical cannabis license that they use to cultivate, and then are selling the product to surrounding states where pot prohibition is still in place.

Oklahoma’s Oversupply of Cannabis

Oklahoma voters legalized the use and sale of medical cannabis when they approved State Question 788 in 2018, a ballot measure that created the most loosely regulated legal cannabis market in the nation. 

Fox 23 reported that Oklahoma produces 32 times the amount of cannabis it actually needs. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) published a study demonstrating that Oklahoma produces a lot more cannabis than consumers can handle. 

“The study found the supply-and-demand ratio in Oklahoma is 64 grams of regulated medical cannabis supplied for every 1 gram of demand for a licensed patient,” the study reads. “The study states a ratio of 2 grams of supply for every 1 gram of demand is a healthy market, putting Oklahoma’s functional supply-and-demand ratio at 32:1.”

In May 2022, Oklahoma lawmakers passed House Bill 3208, which put a two-year pause on issuing new licenses for medical cannabis businesses. At the time, Mark Woodward, public information officer for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), said the state approved over 2,200 medical cannabis dispensaries, making oversight of the businesses by state regulators a big logistical challenge.

“That’s a tremendous amount of dispensaries,” Woodward told KTUL in Tulsa. “It’s more than California, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Nevada and New Mexico combined.”

A few things are being done to help control the market.

Oklahoma lawmakers passed a dozen bills last year that are designed to tighten regulations on the state’s medical cannabis industry, including a requirement that new dispensaries and cultivation operations be located at least 1,000 ft. from schools.

Last March, Oklahoma voters rejected a state question that would have allowed for adult-use cannabis, following a rash of opposition from faith leaders, law enforcement, and prosecutors.

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Border Officials Seize 2,000 Pounds of Pot Disguised As Frozen Waffles

Officials working on the United States-Canada border late last month seized a massive shipment of marijuana that, at first blush, looked like an 8-year-old’s favorite breakfast.

U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced on Friday that “Ajaypal Dhillon, 22, of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and importing marijuana into the United States,” and that the charges “carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and a $5,000,000 fine.”

According to Friday’s announcement, the arrest and bust occurred on July 27 when Customs and Border Protection officers “encountered a semi-trailer operated by Dhillon at the primary inspection point” of the Peace Bridge Port of Entry, a bridge connecting Canada and the U.S. near Buffalo, New York.

Dhillon allegedly claimed that he was simply transporting some frozen foodstuffs.

“Dhillon presented customs documentation indicating a shipment of frozen waffles destined for a grocery store warehouse in Georgia. The shipper of the alleged waffles confirmed that the shipment was fraudulent, and the shipment was put on hold, while Dhillon was referred for a secondary inspection,” the announcement said. “During a physical exam of the cargo, boxes containing approximately 948 kilograms of a green leafy substance [or 2,089 pounds], consistent with that of marijuana, were located. In addition, 50 kilograms of ketamine were also discovered. Investigators identified Dhillon after CBP learned of five prior fraudulent shipments driven by Dhillon into the United States.”

The announcement said that “Dhillon appeared at a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer and was detained.”

Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada and in an increasing number of states in the U.S., including New York. 

But that doesn’t mean you should cross the border with weed –– even if it was legally obtained.

The Canada Border Services Agency issued a reminder of that in late June, just ahead of Canada Day and America’s Independence Day.

“Bringing cannabis across the border in any form, including oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada is a serious criminal offence subject to arrest and prosecution, despite the legalization of cannabis in Canada. A medical prescription from a doctor does not count as Health Canada authorization,” the agency said in a press release.

But despite those warnings, there are plenty who still try to smuggle.

That was the case of a 60-year-old American man, who was driving with around 400 pounds of cannabis in June when he was unwittingly led to a U.S.-Canada point of entry by his GPS.

“On May 2, 2023, an American driver was following GPS coordinates that were entered improperly. He took a wrong turn and ended up in the border line up at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Rainbow Bridge port of entry in Niagara Falls, Ontario. As the driver had no passport, he was referred for a secondary examination. During the inspection, the CBSA officers discovered 181 kg of cannabis (valued at between $362,000 CAD and $724,000 CAD) and over $600,000 US dollars (worth $816,167 CAD). The CBSA officers arrested the driver and seized the cash and cannabis. The case was then turned over to the RCMP Niagara on the Lake Federal Policing Border Integrity Team (RCMP BI),” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a press release.

“The RCMP BI Team examined the cash and cannabis. The items were located in various places in the car. The cannabis was vacuum packed and separated into numerous boxes. The cash was also found separated into bundles, and concealed in a safe, a suitcase, and a pelican case (hard-shelled lockable case).”

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Shroom, Pot Operation Bust at Former Walmart Building Is West Tennessee’s Largest Ever

Nine law enforcement agencies joined together to take down a massive illegal drug operation after a 35-pound shipment of psilocybin edibles revealed the extent of the operation. Agents found an assortment of drugs including multiple forms of cannabis, psilocybin, steroids, and even a distiller tool to make illegal moonshine.

In a press release and a Facebook post, the West Tennessee Drug Task Force, representing the state’s 28th, 29th, and 30th Judicial Districts, announced they served warrants to dismantle a drug operation at a building formerly occupied by Walmart. It involved all three jurisdictions of the West Tennessee Drug Task Force, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspector, Counterdrug Task Force, A.T.F., Humboldt Police Department, Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force, and the 26th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

Search warrants were executed last on July 25 to deploy agents at a warehouse building in Humboldt, Tennessee (Not to be confused with Humboldt County in California). It’s the culmination of an elaborate drug investigation involving over 25 law enforcement officers from nine different agencies.

NBC affiliate Action News 5 reports that it’s the “largest drug bust in western Tennessee history.”

Four suspects were arrested for allegedly taking part in a drug trafficking operation: Joseph Brian Moss, 41, and Lauren Nichole Tippet Moss, 35, both of Humboldt; and Dustin Page, 38, and Tiffany Page, 39, both of Madison County. 

Officers knew of the operation, but the last straw was a delivery of almost 35 pounds of psilocybin edibles that were shipped to a former Humboldt Walmart. A team of agents served a search warrant at the building located at 2500 North Central Avenue.

“This seizure is the biggest in the 28th Judicial District and arguably West Tennessee,” said Drug Task Force Director Johnie Carter. “It is the result of many years of hard work and partnerships formed between multiple agencies. West Tennessee and more specifically, Humboldt, is a safer place to live, work, and raise our families as a result of the hard work and dedication put into this case by my agents and our partners.”

The drug operation evidence might suggest a person was living a Jason Bourne-like life with dozens of identities.

Officers scoured the area and found 376 vials of steroid oils, 21 pounds of various steroid powders, 3.6 gallons of steroid oil, 9,180 steroid pills, 70 forged driver’s license cards from four states—all with the same photo of a person—and 43.5 pounds of psilocybin, 40 pounds of cannabis in multiple forms, 29 weapons, $153,421 in cash, a still to make moonshine, drug “paraphernalia,” and a digital and paper trail.

All have been charged with various criminal offenses, including: possession with intent to sell/deliver and/or manufacturing of Schedule I, III, and VI controlled substances, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, possession of drug paraphernalia, identity theft trafficking, maintaining a drug location, and felony drug paraphernalia.

“We want to thank Director Carter and our West Tennessee Drug Task Force team for their work on this investigation,” said Frederick Agee, District Attorney General for the 28th Judicial District. “This continues to be an ongoing investigation that involves not only local and state agencies but also federal agencies. Our office will seek accountability and justice, which is our goal in every case we prosecute.”

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Coast Guard Seizes 223 Pounds of Cocaine From Boat Headed Towards Long Beach

It’s never a happy ending if you’re a Columbian drug smuggler and your boat breaks down. The feds seized 223 pounds of cocaine and arrested two people headed toward Long Beach after their ship became disabled, FOX11 Los Angeles reports

The panga-style vessel, an open and outboard-powered fishing boat commonly used in the developing world, broke down on the 4th of July off the Colombia coast, and it’s far from the first boat filled with cocaine to do so. U.S. pressure on the Colombian government to crack down on the cocaine trade has epically failed. Coke production in Colombia rose in 2021 to its highest levels in two decades of monitoring, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Reuters reports that the areas sown with the coca plant went up 43% to 204,000 hectares (500,000 acres). 

Needless to say, the two folks aboard the ship didn’t have their cocaine-dusted 4th of July American dream. They flagged down a good Samaritan on their way to Long Beach, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach. Their saviors towed their broken-down boat — but snitched. The rescuers (although the smugglers would likely not use that word) perhaps didn’t want to get in trouble when they sensed the boat was carrying more than people and contacted the Coast Guard, alerting them that they suspected the panga boat had drugs on board. 

Their suspicions were correct. 

The Coast Guard searched the boat and found 223 pounds of cocaine hidden in a false bottom of the ship. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers detained the two people onboard and seized the blow and the boat. 

“This operation exemplifies the outstanding interagency collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP,” said Lt. Commander Keith Robinson, chief of law enforcement at Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach.

Columbia’s leftist President, Gustavo Petro, isn’t in favor of illegal drug smuggling. But he has made some interesting points about the environmental effects of the war on drugs, something too many U.S. cannabis growers who have had their crops burned know about. During his first speech at the General Assembly in 2022, Petro said that the world’s addiction to money, oil, and carbon is destroying the Colombian rainforest through what he describes as a “hypocritical” war against drugs, the UN reports.

“The forest that should be saved is at the same time being destroyed. To destroy the coca plant, they throw poisons such as glyphosate that drips into our waters, they arrest their cultivators and then imprison them,” he said. “The jungle is burning, gentlemen, while you wage war and play with it. The jungle, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life. The great sponge that absorbs the planetary CO2 evaporates. The jungle is our savior, but it is seen in my country as the enemy to defeat, as a weed to be extinguished,” Petro continued.

Rather than blame the plant, Petro has suggested expanding voluntary crop substitution programs and regulating narcotics by focusing on gang leadership while increasing social funding in coca plant production areas. He argues that the world’s dependence on oil and the adverse climate effects of the failed war on drugs cause more deaths than drugs themselves. 

“What is more poisonous for humanity, cocaine, coal or oil? The opinion of power has ordered that cocaine is poison and must be persecuted, while it only causes minimal deaths from overdoses…but instead, coal and oil must be protected, even when it can extinguish all humanity,” he also said in his General Assembly speech. 

Petro’s point is best understood once you know that the war on drugs fueled Columbia’s mess of a civil war — and there’s a report to prove it. The study was conducted by a commission formed as part of the 2016 peace deal with the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). The deal ended five decades of civil war and found that “the union of the interests of United States and Colombia led to the construction of Plan Colombia” (a multibillion-dollar military aid program that began in 2000), “which merged together the counter-insurgency, anti-terrorist and anti-narcotics programmes with the war against narco-terrorism,” The Guardian reports

The report also found a “substantial change in drug policy” is needed while calling out the U.S. — who funded Colombia’s armed forces during the war.

And meanwhile, back home in America, cocaine remains only a Schedule II drug, while cannabis continues to clock in at a Schedule I. 

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GPS Fail Sends Driver With Almost 400 Pounds of Pot to U.S.-Canada Border

The U.S.-Canada border is the last place you want to wind up in the event that you are driving an illegal shipment of nearly 400 pounds of pot and over half a million dollars.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) released a press release on June 5, announcing that an American driver was arrested after attempting to cross the border with just under 400 pounds of cannabis and over $602,985 in his vehicle, at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Police say the man was trying to follow GPS coordinates, but ended up accidentally driving into the U.S.-Canadian port of entry, Insauga reports.

Andrew Lee Toppenberg, 60, of Tustin, California was driving a large cannabis shipment on May 2. Police say he was following GPS coordinates that were entered incorrectly, causing him to take a wrong turn and he ended up at the border at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Rainbow Bridge port of entry in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Since Toppenberg had no passport, he was sent for the dreaded secondary examination. During the inspection, the CBSA officers discovered a huge amount of pot, valued at between C$362,000 and C$724,000, and over $600,000 USD dollars (C$816,167). It doesn’t look good for the driver. The CBSA officers promptly arrested the driver and seized the cash and cannabis. His case was then turned over to the RCMP Niagara on the Lake Federal Policing Border Integrity Team (RCMP BI).

“The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority,” said The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety. This seizure demonstrates the crucial role that the CBSA and the RCMP play in stopping illicit contraband from entering our communities. Outstanding work by both agencies.”

Specifically, Toppenberg is charged with possession of cannabis for the purpose of distribution contrary to s.9(2) of the Cannabis Act; importing 181 kg (399 lbs) of cannabis, contrary to s.11(1) of the Cannabis Act; and possession of proceeds of property over five thousand dollars knowing that all or part of the proceeds of property was obtained by a crime in the United States of America contrary to s.354(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.

The CBSA and RCMP applauded the seizure.

“The CBSA and the RCMP continue to get positive results from our collaboration to protect Canada’s borders,” said Superintendent Rae Bolsterli, RCMP O Division, OIC Border Integrity. This seizure of cash and contraband is one more example of how our combined services are keeping Ontario citizens safe from criminal activities.”

“The CBSA is extremely proud of the diligence shown by our officers,” Jeff Walters, Director, Niagara District Operations, Canada Border Services Agency. “Their hard work has a profound impact on continually ensuring public safety at our borders.”

If Toppenberg was busted in the U.S. punishments for this amount, the minimum time would be no less than five years in prison. If death or serious bodily injury was a factor, no less than 20 years behind bars.

Toppenberg appeared before a Justice on May 5, 2023 at the Robert S.K Welch Court in St. Catharines, Ontario and was remanded in custody, where he remains. His next court date has not been scheduled. To learn more about the latest contraband statistics, visit Canada Border Services Agency seizures.

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