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Erik Herbert

Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection foiled a human smuggling attempt at the Peace Bridge on Friday. 

Customs officials and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced the arrest of three individuals in connection with a failed attempt Wednesday to smuggle illegal aliens across the border. 

Officials said Tonin Ndoja, 50, a citizen of Canada, was charged with bringing in aliens in exchange for financial gain, an offense punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Bardok Tusha, 30, and his wife Kleda Tusha, 20, both citizens of Albania, were charged with illegal entry, according to Customs officials. 

Assistant U.S Attorney Scott S. Allen, Jr., who is handling the case, said that according to the complaints on Wednesday, defendant Ndoja attempted to enter the United States from Canada at the Peace Bridge. Ndoja, a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card holder and member of the trusted traveler program, was driving a tractor trailer carrying rolled steel. During a secondary inspection, officers with CBP discovered defendants Bardok and Kleda Tusha hidden inside the cab of the tractor trailer under a blanket.

“It is the responsibility of our office, along with our federal partners, to protect the flow of traffic across our international crossings,” Hochul said. “Whether it be illegal narcotics, commerce or in this case human beings, we will vigorously prosecute this and any other attempts to subvert the law at our local borders.” 

Tonin Ndoja made an initial appearance Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy. He is being detained and is due back in court on Dec. 4. Bardok and Kleda Tusha also made an initial appearance at which time the couple pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of illegal entry and were sentenced to time served. 

The case is the result of an investigation by CBP, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Randy Howe.

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