enforcement

Montana has the right idea

If the citizens of Montana pass LR-121, it will prevent illegal aliens from getting jobs with state agencies, receiving state-issued professional and trade licenses, collecting unemployment benefits, and more.  What a great idea!  In 2013, the Oregon Legislature will be looking at similar bills OFIR is working on and will need your encouragement to pass those bills.  Keep in touch with your Legislators and make certain they are representing the best interests of Oregonians.             Read the LTE in the The Missoulian find out what they are doing in Montana.

National Day of Remembrance

Alert date: 
November 4, 2012
Alert body: 

November 4 marks the 2nd annual National Remembrance Day for American citizens killed by illegal aliens and the politicians who are just as responsible due to continued support of the illegal alien presence in our country and the lack of enforcement of our existing immigration laws.

May those killed and injured by illegal aliens find peace.  Read more about it.

Bust yields big haul of meth

In what may be the largest crystal methamphetamine bust ever in Oregon, narcotics agents seized about 52 pounds of the drug while serving search warrants last weekend at five properties in Lane and Douglas counties.

Authorities have made four arrests in the case, and more are expected. The group allegedly is responsible for distributing multiple pounds of high-grade methamphetamine in Lane and Douglas counties each week for the past several months, and perhaps longer.

The estimated street value of the seized meth is $1 million, said Erik Fisher, a state police sergeant who serves as commander of Lane County’s Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team.

“I’ve never seen this much meth in one place at one time,” Fisher said. “If (the suspects) can move this kind of weight (in drugs), they’re pretty high up” in the alleged trafficking cartel.

Fisher said an investigation of the group’s dealings began “earnestly” in July, although it’s unclear how long it has allegedly operated in Lane and Douglas counties.

Agents on Sunday served warrants at the following addresses: 76919 Mosby Creek Road in Cottage Grove; 2145 31st St., Space 2 in Springfield; 2755 Nova St. in Springfield; 103 Green Lane in Eugene; and 2175 S.W. Jackie Ave. in Roseburg.

In addition to the drugs, agents recovered a stolen handgun, an undisclosed amount of cash and additional evidence of drug trafficking. An investigation is continuing.

The suspects are identified as Martin Bautista-Limon, 30; Miguel Nunez-Villanueva, 29; Ezequiel Gonzales-Jaimes, 42; and Tomas Torres Gonzalez, 27. They are not legal residents of the United States, Fisher said.

The methamphetamine seized in the case was most likely produced outside of Oregon in a so-called “super lab,” Fisher said.

Meth production in Oregon plummeted after the passage of a 2006 state law that made it illegal to sell medications containing pseudoephedrine — the key ingredient of meth — without a prescription.

In 2005, drug agents in the Portland area confiscated more than 40 pounds of methamphetamine in what was described at the time as the largest amount ever seized in the state.

It was not clear Thursday whether a single investigation in Oregon has ever yielded more than the 52 pounds seized in last weekend’s bust in Lane and Douglas counties.

Throughout 2011, authorities in Oregon seized a total of approximately 242 pounds of methamphetamine, according to statistics compiled by state police.

Criminal Aliens in State Prisons as of Oct. 1, 2012

According to the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) Inmate Population Profile dated October 1, 2012 DOC indicated there were 14,234 prisoners incarcerated in DOC’s 14 prisons.

Not included in DOC’s October 1st Inmate Population Profile was DOC data indicating there were 1,242 foreign nationals (criminal aliens) incarcerated in its prison system.

All 1,242 criminal aliens incarcerated on October 1st by DOC had United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), detainers. The U.S. DHS–ICE is responsible for indentifying whether a DOC inmate is a criminal alien or a domestic inmate. If an inmate is identified as being a criminal alien, at U.S. DHS–ICE’s request, the DOC places an “ICE detainer” on the inmate that directs DOC officials to transfer custody to ICE following completion of the inmate’s state sanction.

Criminal aliens made up approximately 8.72% of the DOC October 1st prison population.

Comparing DOC criminal alien incarceration numbers from October 1, 2007 (985 criminal aliens) and October 1, 2012 (1,242 criminal aliens), the DOC prison system incarcerated 257 criminal aliens more than it did on October 1, 2007, a 26.09% increase.

A review of the 1,242 criminal aliens in DOC prisons by number per county and percentage (%) per county equated to the following: 0-Baker (0.00%), 14-Benton (1.13%), 91-Clackamas (7.33%), 7-Clatsop (0.56%), 2-Columbia (0.16%), 8-Coos (0.64%), 3-Crook (0.24%), 0-Curry (0.00%), 19-Deschutes (1.53%), 5-Douglas (0.40%), 1-Gilliam (0.08%), 0-Grant (0.00%), 2-Harney (0.24%), 7-Hood River (0.56%), 50-Jackson (4.02%), 12-Jefferson (0.97%), 7-Josephine (0.56%), 11-Klamath (0.88%), 0-Lake (0.00), 67-Lane (5.39%), 8-Lincoln (0.64%), 29-Linn (2.33%), 11-Malheur (0.88%), 282-Marion (22.70%), 7-Morrow (0.56%), 286-Multnomah (23.03%), 1-OOS (0.08%), 19-Polk (1.53%), 0-Sherman (0.00%), 3-Tillamook (0.24%), 21-Umatilla (1.69%), 2-Union (0.16), 0-Wallowa (0.00%), 4-Wasco (0.32%), 229-Washington (18.44%), 0-Wheeler (0.00%), and 34-Yamhill (2.74%).

Your listeners should be aware the types of crime committed against their fellow Oregonians by the 1,242 criminal aliens.

A review of the 1,242 criminal aliens in the DOC prison population by numbers per crime and percentage (%) per crime equated to the following: 4-arsons (0.32%), 129-assaults (10.39%), 28-burglaries (2.25%), 28-driving offenses (2.25%), 175-drugs (14.09%), 1-escape (0.08%), 4-forgeries (0.32%), 153-homicides (12.32%), 50-kidnappings (4.02%), 71-others (5.72%), 175-rapes (14.09%), 79-robberies (6.36%), 233-sex abuses (18.76%), 93-sodomies (7.49%), 12-thefts (0.97%), and 7-vehicle thefts (0.56%).

Lars Larson Show listeners should also be aware of the source of the preceding crimes, the country of origin of the 1,242 criminal aliens in DOC prisons.

The self-declared counties of origin of the 1,242 criminal aliens in the DOC prison population by numbers and percentage (%) per country equated to the following: 8-Canada (0.64%), 11-Cuba (0.88%), 17-El Salvador (1.37%), 31-Guatemala (2.49%), 12-Honduras (0.97%), 8-Laos (0.64%), 1,018-Mexico (81.96%), 99-others (7.97%), 6-Russia (0.48%), 14-Ukraine (1.13%), and 18-Vietnam (1.45%).

Beyond the DOC criminal alien incarceration numbers and incarceration percentages, per county and per crime type, or even country of origin, criminal aliens pose high economic cost on Oregonians.

An individual prisoner in the DOC prison system costs approximately ($84.81) per day to incarcerate.

The DOC’s incarceration cost for its 1,242 criminal alien prison population is approximately ($105,334.02) per day, ($737,338.14) per week, and ($38,446,917.30) per year.

None of the preceding cost estimates for the DOC to incarcerate the 1,242 criminal aliens include the dollar amount for legal services (indigent defense), court costs, nor cost estimates to cover victim assistance.

An unfortunate fact, the State of Oregon is not fully cooperating with the U.S. DHS–ICE to fight crime committed by criminal aliens who reside in Oregon.

In year 2007, a United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) report titled “Cooperation of SCAAP (State Criminal Alien Assistance Program) Recipients in the Removal of Criminal Aliens from the United States, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General Audit Division, Audit Report 07-07, October 2007, Redacted-Public Version” identified the State of Oregon as having an official “state sanctuary statute,” ORS 181.850 Enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The USDOJ, the federal governments top law enforcement agency, identified Oregon as a “sanctuary” for criminal aliens.

The State of Oregon should no longer be classified by U.S. federal government law enforcement as having an official “state sanctuary statute” for criminal aliens, nor should Oregon be a sanctuary for criminal aliens to kill, rape, or maim Oregonians.

Report by David Olen Cross, for delivery on the Lars Larson Show, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.

Or, put another way...

In this article Peter Wong reports about a small group of illegal aliens walking from Portland to the State Capitol in Salem to call attention to the fact that they, as illegal aliens, can't get an Oregon driver license.

Better put:

Foreign Nationals living and working illegally in our state are unhappy that they are unable to acquire driver licenses. End of story!

The bigger, yet untold story, is why lawmakers would be working behind closed doors to bend our strong 2008 Oregon Driver License law to make life easier for illegal aliens?

Pull up the welcome mat and send a strong message...you are not welcome in Oregon.


 

Walkers aim to get driver's licenses back for undocumented immigrants

A small group began a four-day walk Friday from Portland to Salem to seek reinstatement of driver licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The walkers were scheduled to reach Salem for an event Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol. Eight started out on the walk, which will be in four stages. Friday’s stage ended in Oregon City. Canby, Woodburn and Salem will be the other stops.

They will urge Gov. John Kitzhaber to take steps to restore access by undocumented immigrants to licenses, which have been more restrictive since a 2007 executive order by then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The Legislature in 2008 made legal presence in the United States a requirement for obtaining driver licenses and nondriver identification cards, so it would take action by the Legislature to change it. Among the documents that can show proof of legal presence are a birth certificate, passport or tribal ID.

“We want to urge Gov. Kitzhaber to make it (change) one of his priorities,” said Sindy Avila, a spokeswoman for Oregon Dream Activists.

“We know he cannot reverse the law and that it has to go to the Legislature. But we feel this is a great first step in educating the community about how not having drivers’ licenses affects undocumented people, and spreads our message.”

Avila said her group wants to call attention to the necessity for drivers’ licenses, which allow mobility of people for work, school and family chores.

The walkers will stay at parishes that have opened their doors to them along the way, Avila said.

Hundreds showed up at the Capitol on April 18. 2011, for a legislative hearing on a bill to allow the state to issue licenses without proof of legal presence. But the bill was heard after a deadline to advance legislation, and it died without further action.

Kulongoski and lawmakers acted to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which requires states to take specified steps to make driver licenses more secure if licenses are used as identification to board commercial aircraft or enter federal buildings.

The federal law does allow states to issue licenses without proof of legal presence if the licenses are clearly marked as not valid for federal identification purposes.

New Mexico and Washington issue some licenses without proof of legal presence. Washington also issues an “enhanced” license that can be used for federal identification purposes and identification to and from Canada.

Governors of both states have proposed legal-presence licenses, but lawmakers have not approved those requests.

Utah issues a driving privilege card that must be renewed every year. A similar proposal was shelved by Oregon lawmakers in 2005, although it cleared a House committee. Tennessee also issued a separate card, but has repealed its law.
 

Kansas case puts face on 'total identity theft'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- When Candida L. Gutierrez's identity was stolen, the thief didn't limit herself to opening fraudulent credit and bank accounts. She assumed Gutierrez's persona completely, using it to get a job, a driver's license, a mortgage and even medical care for the birth of two children.

All the while, the crook claimed the real Gutierrez was the one who had stolen her identity. The women's unusual tug-of-war puts a face on "total identity theft," a brazen form of the crime in which con artists go beyond financial fraud to assume many other aspects of another person's life.

The scheme has been linked to illegal immigrants who use stolen Social Security numbers to get paid at their jobs, and authorities fear the problem could soon grow to ensnare more unsuspecting Americans.

"When she claimed my identity and I claimed it back, she was informed that I was claiming it too," said Gutierrez, a 31-year-old Houston elementary school teacher. "She knew I was aware and that I was trying to fight, and yet she would keep fighting. It is not like she realized and she stopped. No, she kept going, and she kept going harder."

A 32-year-old illegal immigrant named Benita Cardona-Gonzalez is accused of using Gutierrez's identity during a 10-year period when she worked at a Topeka company that packages refrigerated foods.

For years, large numbers of illegal immigrants have filled out payroll forms using their real names but stolen Social Security numbers. However, as electronic employment verification systems such as E-Verify become more common, the use of fake numbers is increasingly difficult. Now prosecutors worry that more people will try to fool the systems by assuming full identities rather than stealing the numbers alone.

For victims, total identity theft can also have serious health consequences if electronic medical records linked to Social Security numbers get mixed up, putting at risk the accuracy of important patient information such as blood types or life-threatening allergies.

Federal Trade Commission statistics show that Americans reported more than 279,000 instances of identity theft in 2011, up from 251,100 a year earlier. While it is unclear how many of those cases involve total identity theft, one possible indicator is the number of identity theft complaints that involve more than one type of identity theft — 13 percent last year, compared with 12 percent a year earlier.

Nationwide, employment-related fraud accounted for 8 percent of identity theft complaints last year. But in states with large immigrant populations, employment-related identity fraud was much higher: 25 percent in Arizona, 15 percent in Texas, 16 percent in New Mexico, 12 percent in California.

Prosecutors say that the longer a person uses someone else's identity, the more confident the thief becomes using that identity for purposes other than just working.

Once they have become established in a community, identity thieves don't want to live in the shadows and they seek a normal life like everybody else. That's when they take the next step and get a driver's license, a home loan and health insurance.

"And so that is a natural progression, and that is what we are seeing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson, who is prosecuting the case against Gutierrez's alleged impostor.

Gutierrez first learned her identity had been hijacked when she was turned down for a mortgage more than a decade ago. Now each year she trudges to the Social Security Administration with her birth certificate, driver's license, passport and even school yearbooks to prove her identity and clear her employment record.

She spends hours on the phone with creditors and credit bureaus, fills out affidavits and has yet to clean up her credit history. Her tax records are a mess. She even once phoned the impostor's Kansas employer in a futile effort to find some relief.

Both women claimed they were identity theft victims and sought to get new Social Security numbers. The Social Security Administration turned down the request from Gutierrez, instead issuing a new number to the woman impersonating her. And in another ironic twist, Gutierrez was forced to file her federal income tax forms using a special identification number usually reserved for illegal immigrants.

"It is such a horrible nightmare," Gutierrez said. "You get really angry, and then you start realizing anger is not going to help. ... But when you have so much on your plate and you keep such a busy life, it is really such a super big inconvenience. You have to find the time for someone who is abusing you."

When Gutierrez recently got married, her husband began researching identity theft on the Internet and stumbled across identity theft cases filed against other illegal immigrants working at Reser's Fine Foods, the same manufacturer where Cardona-Gonzalez worked. He contacted federal authorities in Kansas and asked them to investigate the employee working there who had stolen his wife's identity.

The alleged impostor was arrested in August, and her fingerprints confirmed that immigration agents had encountered Cardona-Gonzalez in 1996 in Harlingen, Texas, and sent her back to Mexico.

Cardona-Gonzalez did not respond to a letter sent to her at the Butler County jail, where she is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated identity theft, misuse of a Social Security number and production of a false document.

Her attorney, Matthew Works, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment. Court filings indicate the two sides are negotiating a plea agreement.

Citing privacy issues, the Social Security Administration declined to discuss the Gutierrez case. Reser's Fine Foods did not return a message left at its Topeka plant.

Anderson expects more cases of total identity theft "because we all know what is going on out there — which is thousands and thousands of people who are working illegally in the United States under false identities, mostly of U.S. citizens, and very little is being done about it. But we are doing something about it, one case at a time."

 

With 60,000 dead, Mexicans wonder why drug war doesn't rate in presidential debate

Mexico City

Mitt Romney’s single mention of Latin America last night, calling it a “huge opportunity" for the United States, generated immediate glee from Latin Americanists across Twitter – but the hemisphere got no nod from President Obama, and then both went silent on the topic.

Given that the final presidential debate Monday evening was dominated by the Middle East and terrorism, most of the world was left out by President Obama and Mr. Romney. That includes the whole of Europe and its debt crisis. India. South Africa. And not a single mention of any country in Latin America or the Caribbean: neither Cuba specifically, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, nor Peru. (Read a transcript here.)

That means no candidate talked about the drug trade, despite historic violence playing out in Mexico, much of it along the 2,000-mile border that the US shares. They did not talk about energy policy in the Americas. Or the economies of Brazil and Mexico.

Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz.

The debate opened with promise for Latin America – with moderator Bob Schieffer referring to the 50th anniversary of the disclosure that the Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba. But he did not pose a question about it or anything else in the region, which observers say was a clear missed opportunity – even if hardly surprising.

“In a broader foreign policy context, we have to begin to mainstream the Americas,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. “Brazil is an important international player, not just a Latin American player.… Latin America is of rising importance in the world, [we should have been hearing how the candidates] would work with Brazils, and Mexicos, and Colombias.”

Romney mentioned Latin America in the context of how to boost employment at home. “Trade grows about 12 percent year. It doubles about every – every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America,” he said. “The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us – time zone, language opportunities.”

But Obama did not respond. And the only other mention of the region came once again from Romney, who mentioned Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro as part of a list of the world’s “worst actors” whom Obama has failed to meet with, he said, despite promises to do so.

Obama has remained popular across Latin America and is favored among Hispanic voters in the US. But some of that support abroad has slipped. In a Pew poll released in June, 39 percent of Mexicans said they approved of Obama’s international policies. That fell from 56 percent in 2009. (Here is the poll.)

Much of that slide could be pegged to record deportations of undocumented immigrants under Obama, although in a huge move this year he gave a reprieve to many undocumented migrants who were brought to the US as children.

While immigration is the topic that Latin America perhaps cares most about, few expected the politically charged issue to feature at the presidential debate. Still, there was hope that the growing role that places such as Brazil and Colombia play in the energy sector would be mentioned. And if nothing else, the drug-fueled violence plaguing Mexico and Central America right now.

Mexican journalist Leon Krauze wrote in a widely shared Tweet: “Mexico, a country facing 100,000 deaths, neighbor to the United States, didn't deserve one single mention tonight. A disgrace.”

Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo added, using a more commonly cited figure for Mexican deaths: “They talk about a humanitarian tragedy in Syria (30,000 deaths) and still don’t say anything about Mex (some 60,000). Will they?

They did not. When asked what the greatest future security threat was to the US, no one mentioned Mexico. Obama cited “terrorist networks,” while Romney mentioned a “nuclear Iran.”

Latin American observers were just as befuddled as those in Latin America. “As George W. Bush rightly said, Mexico is the US's most important bilateral relationship. A presidential debate should focus on whether the United States is doing enough – and doing the right things – to assist Mexico [and Central America] deal with its drug-fueled crime and violence,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “If the US is not prepared to do everything possible to stand up for its closest neighbors and allies, then how could it have a credible foreign policy more broadly?”
 

Romney in 2nd debate refuses to budge or pander on issue of taking jobs from illegal aliens

Gov. Romney sent a powerful positive message to unemployed American workers in construction, service and manufacturing by refusing to budge from his long-term insistence on strong enforcement to get illegal immigrants out of U.S. jobs.

He did so in the face of a tough audience question about "productive" illegal immigrants and in response to attacks by Pres. Obama about Romney's support for "self-deportation."

Romney noted two primary ways that a country can enforce its immigration rules and said he rejects the one that involves mass roundups and mass deportations. Instead, he said, he would take away the jobs and benefits magnets and allow most illegal immigrants to come to their own conclusion on moving back to their home countries.

Obama, unfortunately, indicated that he opposes both enforcement options, except for deporting criminals who are "hurting the community."
 

Indo-Canadian truck drivers from GTA caught in web of North American drug trade

An 18-wheeler trundled to a stop at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge on its way into Canada. During an outbound inspection, a U.S. immigration-customs agent asked the driver if he had anything to declare. The man behind the wheel said no, the tractor-trailer was empty.

But he appeared nervous and wouldn’t make eye contact, so the agent asked him to step out of the cab. Uneasy and shaking, the driver almost stumbled out.

The trailer was sent for inspection where it was scanned with a special low-energy x-ray machine used to identify illegal drugs, guns or currency. It showed nothing.

A second scan was carried out, again detecting no abnormalities. A dog trained to sniff out narcotics was brought inside the trailer and noticed nothing suspicious.

Then, two agents noticed screws on the floor boards that appeared to have been tampered with. They removed the boards and found a hidden compartment stretching across the entire floor. Inside, they found 97 bricks of cocaine, more than 100 kilos, worth an estimated $4.4 million on the streets, according to U.S. authorities. The Sept. 8, 2010, narcotics seizure was believed to be the largest ever in the Western District of New York.

The driver, Ravinder Arora, a 31-year-old family man from Brampton, would plead guilty to the charge of conspiracy to export cocaine.

Today, two years later, he languishes in a Buffalo prison awaiting sentencing. He faces a minimum 10 years to life behind bars.

For years, Indo-Canadian gangs in B.C. have been involved in cross-border drug smuggling, infiltrating the trucking industry and fighting turf wars that have often been bloody and vicious.

But now, members of southern Ontario’s Indo-Canadian community, in particular from Brampton and Mississauga, are increasingly being lured into the North American drug trade, according to Crown attorneys, lawyers, police and community leaders on this side of the border.

It is not difficult to understand why. An estimated 60 per cent of Ontario’s long-haul truck drivers are Indo-Canadian, making them logical targets for drug traffickers. They will gladly do long-haul jobs shunned by others that can mean being on the road for weeks. They don’t mind sharing the close quarters of a cab with a co-driver, and the job requires little more than a commercial driver’s licence.

“There are many (Indo-Canadian drivers) who just want to make a decent living,” said Manan Gupta, editor-publisher of Road Today, a monthly trucking magazine in the GTA. “But there are a few bad ones and their numbers are rising.”

“This is ruining our community’s name . . . drivers from Peel are looked upon suspiciously at the border,” he said.

Last month, a trial began in Windsor for transport driver Karamjit Singh Grewal of Brampton, accused of smuggling 82 kilos of cocaine across the Ambassador Bridge on April 12, 2009. The drugs were found between skids of California lettuce. Grewal has pleaded not guilty to possession and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

On Monday, another trial starts for truck driver Kuldip Singh Dharmi, also from Brampton. He was arrested on Aug. 11, 2009, after Canada Border Services Agency officers allegedly discovered 117 kilos of cocaine in his tractor-trailer. He was bringing back a load of aluminum coils. He, too, is pleading not guilty.

And early next year, a trial is scheduled for Baldev Singh, again from Brampton, arrested in March 2009 while transporting California oranges across the Ambassador Bridge. CBSA officers allege the load included 69 kilos of cocaine. Singh is pleading not guilty.

Of the 15 to 18 significant drug seizures at the Windsor-Detroit crossing each year, about 70 per cent involve Indo-Canadian transport drivers, many of them recent immigrants to Canada, said federal prosecutor Richard Pollock.

“I am shocked when I hear the stories,” said Baldev Mutta of Punjabi Community Health Services, a social agency in Peel Region, adding it’s a problem few seem willing to address.

Ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine are the three major drugs smuggled between the U.S. and Canada. Ecstasy and marijuana travel south, cocaine travels north.

Until about a decade ago, cross-border smuggling was almost always by sea and air. As Mexican drug cartels replaced Colombian drug lords, cocaine smugglers started using land routes, specifically tractor-trailers to ship drugs from Mexico to the U.S. and Canada. For a while, Vancouver was where drugs were transported across Canada before hitting the Toronto area.

About six years ago, Canadian authorities determined that the Windsor-Detroit crossing was the preferred route of traffickers, although large drug seizures such as Arora’s have also taken place at Ontario crossings such as Sarnia, Fort Erie and Niagara.

Windsor-Detroit is the busiest border crossing, where more than 7,000 trucks cross daily. Homeland Security in the U.S. and the CBSA would not reveal how many trucks undergo the kind of extensive search that Arora was subjected to, but some sources say as few as 200 a dayabout 3 per centare given a thorough check.

The sheer volume of traffic, in the eyes of traffickers, makes it a risk worth taking, says Richard Pollock, federal prosecutor in Windsor. For every illegal shipment caught, he estimates 200 slip through undetected.

So popular is Windsor-Detroit for marijuana smuggling that shipments are sometimes sent by land from Vancouver to Toronto, then on to Windsor and across to the U.S., according to a 2009 CBSA report.

One RCMP official referred to the drug trade as a continuous “cat and mouse game” as traffickers come up with more sophisticated means of smuggling and authorities develop better ways of detecting the illicit cargo.

In this mélange of drugs, Mexican cartels and Ontario border crossings, some Indo-Canadian truck drivers, as courts have witnessed, become willing or unwitting players in smuggling schemes.

Several years ago, Pat Fogarty, superintendent in charge of operations for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C., said he noticed his drug smuggling investigations on the west coast had an Ontario link — they often involved the Windsor-Detroit crossing and Indo-Canadian drivers.

This nexus started showing up with alarming regularity. He also discovered a growing number of “truck co-ordinators” in Ontario — brokers linked to the drug trade who help find trucks to ship marijuana to the U.S. and cocaine into Canada — were Indo-Canadian.

“They (the brokers) find it safe to find truckers from their own community,” said Fogarty. “They also know that these truckers won’t disappear with drugs worth millions of dollars because these co-ordinators know where these truckers are from in Punjab . . . right down to their villages. They have them pretty much marked down.”

Once a truck driver ferries one drug shipment, it becomes impossible to refuse a second or a third, Fogarty said.

“They are trapped.”

It began innocuously enough for Arora.

He came to Canada from India about eight years ago and lived in the basement of an aunt and uncle’s house in Brampton. He had been driving a truck for a few years and had a clean record when he was approached by a man he knew at a Sikh temple in Mississauga. The man offered Arora a job, which for the first few months involved transporting legitimate loads across the border.

Then one day the man told Arora he could make extra money — $8,000 per trip — if his shipments included drugs stashed in a well-hidden compartment, according to the plea agreement.

Arora, soon to be married, agreed. At that point, he became part of an elaborate Brampton-based operation responsible for smuggling 1.5 tons (more than 1,600 kilos) of cocaine into Canada over two years. The group is also believed to have smuggled ecstasy and marijuana, as well as cash, into the U.S., according to court documents.

Over the course of 2009 and 2010, Arora admitted to smuggling at least five shipments of cocaine into Canada. During that time, he also got married in India and brought his wife to Canada.

According to the plea agreement, the modus operandi was simple: Arora would pick up the cocaine at a warehouse in California and truck it to a warehouse in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb, where legitimate cargo — mostly produce — was stacked on top of the false floor, concealing the illicit cargo. After crossing the border, the drugs were then delivered to a warehouse in Mississauga for eventual street sale in the Greater Toronto Area.

Arora’s payment was not a huge sum of money. But it was extra money, and tax-free.

In a news conference in 2011, James Engleman, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, called it a professional job. “They spent a lot of time to build professional-quality concealment on these trailers,” said Engleman.

It’s likely that if Arora hadn’t looked nervous that day in September 2010, the operation may have gone undetected for a long time.

By the time Arora was arrested, his wife was pregnant. His lawyer, Parmanand Prashad, said his client regrets this decision more than anything else in his life.

No one wants to target Indo-Canadian truck drivers. Not the police, not lawyers nor community leaders.

They know it’s a sensitive subject and weigh their words carefully. And they are emphatic in saying most Indo-Canadian truckers are not involved in trafficking; only a small number.

But that number may be growing and, according to Windsor’s federal prosecutor, poses a big worry.

“It is mind-boggling how naive some people are,” said Richard Pollock, adding drug traffickers believe they will get away with it forever.

In most cases, suspects plead not guilty and say they were unaware of the presence of drugs in the trailer. Some stories told in court are heartbreaking, he says.

Gurminder Riar, 33, broke down at his sentencing in Windsor last year, telling Superior Court Justice Gordon Thomson he was innocent. “It is not justice. My parents, my wife is in India. I do care for them. I love them and they love me,” he told the court.

Riar and his co-driver, Jaswinder Aujla, both from Brampton, were convicted of smuggling 37 kilos of cocaine hidden among a shipment of ice cream originating in California.

Justice Thomson noted that the men’s tax records and spartan living conditions indicated they were not wealthy, but said they succumbed to greed in the hopes of a big payday. Riar was sentenced to 14 years, Aujla to 16 years.

Though sentences appear to be getting tougher, Sarnia federal prosecutor Michael Robb says it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. “There is lots of money to be made,” said Robb, adding younger drivers are more likely to take the risk.

“If you look at their financial status, they have obligations and they have families come in from their home countries and they need to be supported,” he said.

Nachhattar Chohan, president of the Brampton-based Indian Trucking Association, said there is no doubt the trucking industry has been infiltrated by drug smuggling. And he suspects some transportation companies are started just to smuggle drugs, as was noted in an RCMP intelligence report in 2011.

“Some companies make so much money so quickly . . . so you doubt what they are doing,” he said.

That RCMP report noted customized compartments are built within tractor-trailers to conceal drugs and cash, and “criminal groups conceal their illicit activities through layers of company ownership, name changes and transfers and closures.”

But Chohan, who operates a fleet of 35 trucks and employs as many drivers, emphasized the vast majority of Indo-Canadian drivers earn an honest living. Thanks to “these (smugglers), CBSA agents think all transporters do this business,” he said. “They think all our truckers are involved in trafficking drugs. I feel shamed, very shamed.”

Prashad, Arora’s Mississauga lawyer who has represented as many as 50 truckers arrested on both sides of the border, has heard stories of how they were recruited: some were enticed with money, others with the promise of steady work.

He recalls a case where a young Mississauga driver was arrested with cocaine near Chicago. His elderly, widowed mother had just come from India, said Prashad. “She didn’t know what to do, he was her only child . . . she cried for hours in my office.”

In a Windsor courtroom , Karamjit Singh Grewal, 48, dressed in a lemon-coloured shirt, grey pants and a lemon turban, his beard flowing loose, stood next to his lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, and said softly: “Not guilty.”

It was the first day of his trial, on Sept. 17, where he is fighting charges of possessing and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

(Ducharme recently defended one of five former Toronto drug squad officers in this year’s highly publicized corruption trial.)

In his opening statement, Pollock told the court Grewal was the sole occupant of a tractor-trailer when it stopped at the Ambassador Bridge on the night of April 12, 2009, for a routine check. Grewal told a CBSA officer the trailer was loaded with California lettuce and was headed for the Toronto area.

It was an innocuous load and Grewal’s papers were in order. He would have glided through except for two things: the officer asked him how long his trip to the U.S. was and Grewal was vague, replying “eight or nine days;” and, the officer also noticed that the trailer’s metal seal, though not broken, appeared to have been tampered with.

Grewal was referred to a secondary inspection. In a matter of hours his life began to unravel.

A closer inspection would result in the discovery of two white boxes and two plastic pails containing 82 kilograms of cellophane-wrapped cocaine between the skids of lettuce.

Ducharme pointed out that the metal seal was intact when his client was asked to open the trailer. So much so, he said in his opening statement, that Grewal had to break it off with a hammer, cutting his thumb in the process.

During the trial, Grewal’s 20-year-old daughter sat in the courtroom listening intently. She wouldn’t comment on the case, about the impact of her father’s arrest three years ago, or that he filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Grewal’s trial ended last week. Justice Mary Jo Nolan will deliver a verdict on Dec. 10.

Arora’s sentencing has been postponed at least four times as he continues to co-operate with authorities on the vast drug-smuggling operation in which he became involved. (A permanent resident in Canada, he will probably be deported to his native India after serving a prison term.)

Since his arrest in 2010, he has disclosed information that has led to the arrest of three accomplices:

Parminder Sidhu, of Brampton, who hired Arora as a driver at his company, Prime 9, was arrested and then extradited to the U.S. on Feb. 7, 2012. Sidhu is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to export cocaine.

When a search warrant was executed at Sidhu’s home, extensive drug ledgers were discovered, according to Arora’s plea agreement.

A home telephone listing was disconnected and a phone number for Prime 9 could not be located. Prime 9, according to documents, was incorporated in 2009.

Michael Bagri, a third associate from the Toronto area, was arrested in the U.S. Together with Arora, he has pleaded guilty to trafficking more than 1,600 kilograms of cocaine from the U.S. into Canada over two years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Bagri, 51, is yet to be sentenced.

As part of the same operation, Huy Hoang Nguyen, 27, of Massachusetts, also pleaded guilty in July to importing more than 100 kilos of marijuana from Canada into the U.S. He faces a minimum of five to 40 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Arora’s wife has fled to B.C. with their daughter, who was born last year. Prashad says there was fear of a backlash on Arora’s family after he pled guilty. His wife, in her late 20s, has visited Arora a few times at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y., where Prashad says Arora has been incarcerated since his arrest.

Prashad says Arora has found religion: he now wears a turban, no longer eats meat, and prays. He has never met his young daughter.

Prashad talks to Arora’s wife often and says she doesn’t know what to do. “She can’t go back to India because her husband is here . . . but she doesn’t speak English too well so it is tough here, too,” he said.

“This drug trade has ruined three more lives.”

 

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