A complex scheme to smuggle drugs between Canada and the U.S. began to unravel after a meeting in Langley, U.S. court documents show.
A group of American drug smugglers hatched an elaborate plan to bring cocaine across the border into Canada, where it would be sold or swapped for MDMA as part of a larger scheme to export cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico through Southern California and into Canada.
According to a statement issued by the United States Attorney’s office for the Central District of California, the conspirators used modified cell phones with “military-grade end-to-end encryption” made by Canadian companies that remove most functionality from the phones, leaving only an encrypted email system.
An unsealed indictment described how the smugglers used code names and serial numbers of paper currency to ensure they could safely negotiate drug deals.
All their precautions failed to prevent a Jan. 18, 2018, meeting in Langley, when one of the alleged smugglers met with “an individual he believed to be a money courier, but who was, in fact and undercover agent” the indictment described.
They struck a deal to give the courier $963,000 in Canadian money to get 50 kilograms of cocaine.
Three days later, in a coded text message to the undercover agent, the amount required was tripled to 150 kilograms of cocaine.
Over the next several weeks and months, the American smugglers were introduced to other people who posed as criminal associates of the undercover agent, granting them access to the smuggling network that included the various codes.
On Thursday (Sept. 5), police arrested 13 people, three in Los Angeles and the rest in the Seattle and Vancouver areas.
Thirty people have been charged, including the 13 arrested.
Court documents said the drug trafficking organizations included members of Canadian, Mexican, Serbian, Chinese, and Sudanese organized crime groups.
Investigators seized approximately 428.5 kilograms (944.7 pounds) of cocaine, nine kilograms (19.8 pounds) of heroin, 46.6 kilograms (102.7 pounds) of methamphetamine, and 46.12 kilograms (106.1 pounds) of MDMA.
They also seized approximately $811,000 in Canadian money.
If convicted of all charges, under U.S. law, defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, up to a maximum of life.
A list of Canadian and U.S. agencies that worked together to investigate the scheme included the FBI, RCMP, Los Angeles Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
As well, the press release said, “critical support was provided by Toronto Police Service, Sudbury Police Service, Hamilton Police Service, Peel Regional Police, Hawthorne Police Department, Baldwin Park Police Department, West Covina Police Department, Fontana Police, California Highway Patrol, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice Canada, and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.
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