Tobacco Road’s new twist and turns – Big Cigarette Bust OCTOBER 15, 2009

BIG CIGARETTE BUST + Local Tobacco Round Up

1000 Islands Integrated Border Enforcement Team butts out cigarette operation on St. Lawrence River
(Kingston, Ontario – Thursday the 15th of October, 2009) – On October 6th, 2009, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in conjunction with the Canada Border Services Agency, Ontario Provincial Police, Kingston Police Service, New York State Police, United States Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Metro Jefferson Drug Task Force worked in partnership to conduct Project “OBOXED”.
This investigation targeted a contraband smuggling operation on the St. Lawrence River. This joint investigation with United States partners was successful in intercepting illegal contraband tobacco and disrupting a smuggling organization that was operating between the Kingston area and northern New York state.

Four  individuals were arrested in Canada, and one in the United States.  A total of 6,500 cartons of untaxed contraband cigarettes, two boats, two boat trailers, four vehicles and approximately $27,000.00 in Canadian currency was seized.  A portion of the seized contraband cigarettes had been smuggled across the St. Lawrence River from the United States into Canada.

The four persons arrested in Canada were Eric STILES (Age 32) of Ottawa, Ontario; Ali AFFAT ( Age 26 ) of Nepean, Ontario;  Andrea D’AVIERO ( Age 35 ) of Ottawa, Ontario; and Robert
St. LAURENT ( Age 48 ) of Gatineau, Quebec.  Arrested in the United States and charged with possession of cocaine and hashish was John Lee RANKIN  (Age 34) of Nepean, Ontario. RANKIN was arraigned in the Town of Alexandria Court and sent to Jefferson County jail. Additional state and federal charges are pending.

All four individuals arrested in Canada have been charged with Customs and Excise offences relating to the possession and smuggling of prohibited goods. Ali AFFAT and Andrea D’AVIERO were released on bail on October 6, 2009 and Robert St. LAURENT was released October 13, 2009 in Kingston, Ontario.  Eric STILES is currently being held pending bail and will appear in Kingston Court on October 16, 2009.

The 1000 Islands Integrated Border Enforcement Team is one (1) of fifteen (15) Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs) across the country located along our International Border with the United States. They provide a federally mandated response to National Security and criminality along the longest undefended border in the world.

RCMP  is the lead agency in the province of Ontario for the IBET teams that have been established for border security and front line law enforcement along the Canada/US border from the Province of Quebec to the Province of  Manitoba. The 1000 Islands IBET plays a vital role in meeting the RCMP’s mandate for safe homes and safe communities by directly targeting two of the RCMP’s five Strategic Priorities, these being Organized Crime and Terrorism. To combat these elements the IBET team is tasked with operating anywhere along the border between the Ports of Entry.

The on-going collaboration between Canadian and United States law enforcement agencies in this joint effort was key to the success of this investigation.  “Criminal organizations are increasingly involved in the contraband tobacco market and they are making huge profits from the trade at the expense of legitimate businesses.” stated Sgt. Rick Hudson, who is in charge of the RCMP Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET).

The public is reminded that they can provide information relating to any criminal activity by contacting the Provincial Crime Stoppers agency confidential tip line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

The following details are seizures from October 7th to October 15th, 2009.  A total of 2,400 cartons/re-sealable bags of contraband cigarettes,3 vehicles were seized and four people arrested:

On October 7th, 2009, an officer from the Cornwall Community Police Service observed a 1994 Chevrolet Astro Van parked close to the St. Lawrence River in the City of Cornwall.  The officer approached on foot and observed a male run into the bushes.  Cornwall Police officers then located the male lying in the bushes trying to evade police.  Officers searched the vehicle and located several cardboard boxes of contraband cigarettes.  Officers from the Cornwall RCMP Detachment were contacted to assist.  RCMP officers seized 900 cartons of Montagne filter brand cigarettes, 500 cartons of Discount brand cigarettes as well as the van.  A 57 year old male resident from Grenville-Sur-La-Rouge, Quebec was arrested and faces a charge for possession of a tobacco product not properly stamped according to the Excise Act 2001.  He will appear at court at a later date.

On October 9th, 2009, an officer from the Ontario Provincial Police stopped a 1994 Chrysler LHS on Highway 401 eastbound in South Glengarry, Ontario.  While the officer was verifying documents, he detected a strong odour of tobacco and a package of contraband cigarettes was in view of the officer.  Officers from the Cornwall RCMP Detachment were contacted to assist.  The RCMP seized 350 cartons of Discount brand cigarettes, 200 re-sealable bags of contraband cigarettes as well as the vehicle.  The 51 year old male driver from Saint-Eustache, Quebec and the 53 year old male passenger from Pointe-Calumet, Quebec were arrested and face charges for possession of a tobacco product not properly stamped according to the Excise Act 2001. The passenger also faces a charge  for possession of a prohibited weapon as he was found with a can of Sabre Capsicine dog repellant.  They will appear at court at a later date.

On October 14th, 2009, officers from the Canada Border Services Agency located at the Cornwall Port of Entry inspected a 2004 Ford F150 pick-up truck and located contraband cigarettes in the rear cargo area of the truck.  Officers from the RCMP were contacted to assist.  The RCMP seized 450 re-sealable bags of contraband cigarettes as well as the truck.  The 21 year old male driver from Akwesasne, Ontario was arrested and faces a charge for possession of a tobacco product not properly stamped according to the Excise Act 2001.  He was released to appear at court on a later date.
“The RCMP continues to work with all law enforcement agencies in order to gain leverage against organized crime groups transporting illicit tobacco products within our communities”, said Sgt. Michael Harvey from the RCMP. “We have also noticed the smuggling routes are covering a wider area due to the presence of law enforcement at the border area in Cornwall, Ontario”.

If you have any questions please call me at my coordinates below.

Sgt. Michael Harvey
Cornwall RCMP Detachment
Tel:  613-937-2831
Cell: 613-551-0747
Fax: 613-937-2804

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