Canada-led Project Hammerhead devours weed-smuggling operation

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A Canada Border Services Agency-led operation that involved police and customs officials on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border has netted well over a half-ton of cannabis and almost a half-million in cash.

Specifically, the authorities seized 556 kilograms of weed, $467,480 in Canadian currency, US$3,000, three loaded handguns with their magazines, and five vehicles, notes a statement this week from the CBSA.

The seizures follow three search warrants being simultaneously executed on Jan. 28 in Cornwall, Ont., on Cornwall Island and in Hogansburg, N.Y. These searches resulted in the arrests of two Cornwall residents, a person from of Cornwall Island, a person from St. Regis, Que. and three from Hogansburg.

Cornwall resident Mark Rudolph, 35, has been charged with importing and exporting cannabis, three counts of possession of a firearm contrary to a prohibition order, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, four counts of careless storage of a firearm or ammunition, three counts of knowledge of unauthorized possession of a firearm and three counts of possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm.

The six others were arrested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, five of whom have been cited for violations of conspiring to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess for distribution more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.

The seizure is part of CBSA-led Project Hammerhead. The project probes the “alleged sophisticated, cross-border smuggling organization, utilizing the Akwesasne territory as a transit point to facilitate the smuggling of firearms, marijuana and currency” across the Canada/U.S. border.

Cannabis bud and leaf with handcuffs depicting legal, law and decriminalization concepts

“This joint investigation disrupted a criminal organization that posed a significant threat to both U.S. and Canadian communities.” / PHOTO BY GLETI / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

“The coordination and collective team effort of all agencies involved demonstrates how our close partnerships benefit the safety of Canadians and protect our borders,” Stephanie Chenier, the CBSA’s director or intelligence and enforcement for Northern Ontario, says in the statement.

“This joint investigation disrupted a criminal organization that posed a significant threat to both U.S. and Canadian communities, and brazenly exploited our shared border for illicit gain,” argues Kevin Kelly, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations.

“Project Hammerhead is a testament that collaboration between law enforcement agencies is critical to identifying, investigating and prosecuting criminal organizations using our border to advance their interests,” adds Superintendent Shawn Boudreau, the RCMP’s officer in charge, border integrity.

Despite COVID-19 and the travel restrictions that have been in place for almost a year, smuggling of cannabis and other drugs continues even at border crossings, including those in Ontario and Quebec.

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