The U.S. And Canada Take Down A Major Drug Trafficking Scheme

On September 5, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed two grand jury indictments of thirty suspects on charges of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs throughout North America. On the same day, federal prosecutors announced that thirteen of the suspects had been arrested, three of them in Los Angeles and the others in Seattle and Vancouver.

Earlier this year, several law enforcement agencies from the United States and Canada began to collaborate in an investigation of a drug trafficking scheme which operated in both countries and in Mexico as well. The participating agencies included the FBI, the DEA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, over ten local Canadian police organizations, and the Canadian Department of Justice. The combined efforts of both nations resulted in the indictments and the arrests, as well as the confiscation of 9 kgs (about 19 lbs) of heroin, 428.5 kgs (about 944 lbs) of cocaine, 46.6 kgs (about 103 lbs) of methamphetamine, 46.12 kgs (about 101 lbs) of Ecstasy, and about 811,000 Canadian dollars in illegal profits.

The indictment specifies that the suspects face charges of conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to export controlled substances. These charges constitute serious felonies in the United States and Canada, and each suspect will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison if a jury finds them guilty. Some of the suspects are members of criminal organizations from Canada, Mexico, China, Serbia, and Sudan.

How Did This Conspiracy Operate?

According to the indictment, the drug trafficking scheme dates back to at least 2017. The essence of the conspiracy was an organized system of exchanging controlled substances across two national borders. The U.S. Justice Department alleges that suspects in Los Angeles bought heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine from traffickers in Mexico. In some cases, they stored the drugs in storage lockers in towns in Southern California, including Redlands and Compton. Then, they would use couriers to transport the drugs to suspects in Canada, who would pay for them with either money or Ecstasy, every week.

For a time, the scheme was so successful that some of the suspects were allegedly devising plans to start sending cocaine to Australia. As professional criminals, the suspects took precautions to avoid detection. They communicated with each other on encrypted cellphones with code names and cryptic messages, and they used the serial numbers on dollar bills as “tokens” to identify themselves during drug exchanges. They even planned to send couriers across the United States-Canada border without drugs on a “test run” to see if the police would arrest them. However, once several participants in the scheme broke away and started giving information to the police, all of their precautions failed to save them from the watchful eyes of the law. In the future, the suspects in custody will likely face trial. Meanwhile, the police will continue searching for the remaining suspects who have escaped arrest.

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Nathan Yerby

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  • Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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