Charges stayed against four Ontario men accused of using private helicopter to transfer cannabis into U.S.

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Authorities allege that a Jet Ranger helicopter stuffed with cannabis was flown across the border at low altitudes to avoid radar detection on several occasions.

Charges against four men from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) accused of discreetly flying cannabis into the U.S. using a private helicopter have been dropped.

The men, ranging in age from 25 to 40, were charged with conspiracy to commit the unlawful export of cannabis, possession of cannabis for the purpose of exporting and unlawful cultivation, propagation and harvest of cannabis plants last September.

CTV News reports that all charges were stayed by the Crown in December 2020. Brian Greenspan, representing the accused, told CTV he believes the charges were stayed due to a problem with a search warrant.

Per Steps to Justice, charges are stayed when a judge or a Crown decides that it would be bad for the justice system for the case to continue.

The investigation began in April 2019, when a U.S. Border Patrol agent observed a helicopter hovering above a parking lot in New York’s Beaver Island State Park, about a kilometre from Fort Erie, Ont.

A search of the area revealed four duffel bags stuffed with cannabis, with a total weight of about 50 kilograms.

U.S. authorities then observed the helicopter, which remained at a low altitude, return to Canada.

Four months later, in August, police searched six properties across Ontario and Quebec and seized a helicopter, truck and trailer, 18 firearms, more than 800 cannabis plants and around 400 grams of cocaine.

According to police, the illicit cannabis was being cultivated in the GTA.

CTV reports that two of the accused are now trying to regain possession of the helicopter, a Bell 206 B-3 Jet Ranger. It is currently being held by the RCMP, pending a civil forfeiture hearing in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

“They deny any wrongdoing and they believe that they have the right to the return of their lawful property,” Greenspan said.

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