Customs officials seized nearly five tons of cannabis last week from a truck that was attempting to cross into the U.S. at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry on New York’s border with Canada, federal law enforcement officers announced on Monday. The seizure is the third large pot bust this month at the border crossing that has seen an uptick in smuggling via commercial vehicles since travel restrictions called in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were put in place this spring.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Misha A. Coulson said in a press release from the Department of Justice that the truck attempted to enter the United States not long before midnight on June 25. The commercial truck with Ontario license plates was carrying a load of 55 storage containers, according to an electronic manifest for the cargo.

When Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conducted an x-ray scan of the truck, it revealed inconsistencies with the cargo in the trailer. The vehicle was then directed to a CBP warehouse loading dock for further examination of the shipment. During a physical inspection of the truck, officers “recovered multiple packages of vacuum sealed bags containing a green leafy substance, which field tested positive for the presence of marijuana.”

Truck Driver Faces Life In Prison

Customs officers recovered approximately 8,320 sealed bags from the shipping containers in the truck. A total of 9,472 pounds of marijuana, which officials valued at approximately $20 million, was confiscated by customs officers. The driver of the truck, a 26-year-old Indian national, has been charged with possessing 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and importation of marijuana into the United States with the intent to distribute. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life behind bars. The defendant has been arraigned before a federal magistrate and is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

Port Director Jennifer De La O praised the seizure, characterizing it as “an excellent job by our officers from start to finish.”

“From recognizing a shipment that needed further screening, to the identification of the anomaly during the secondary scan, to the coordination with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations, our officers are committed to intercepting these illicit drugs from being smuggled in,” she said.

The cannabis confiscated last week represents the largest seizure of marijuana ever in the Justice Department’s Western District of New York, according to government officials. The bust is also the third major interception of cannabis being smuggled into the United States at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry this month. On June 5, CBP officers confiscated more than 800 kilograms of marijuana worth an estimated $2 million from a truck attempting to cross into the U.S. And on June 13, more than 3,300 pounds of pot was seized from another commercial vehicle.

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