Federal prosecutors in Buffalo on Monday announced what they described as one of the largest cross-border marijuana busts of all time.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District James P. Kennedy Jr. announced the filing of charges against 26-year-old Indian citizen Prabjot Nagra in connection with a failed attempt to use a commercial vehicle to smuggle roughly $20 million worth of pot into the United States from Canada using the Peace Bridge.
Prosecutors arrested and charged Nagra by criminal complaint with possessing with the intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana and importation of marijuana into the U.S. The defendant was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and is being held pending a detention hearing on Wednesday. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.
Prosecutors contend that Nagra attempted to enter the United States at the Peace Bridge port on entry just before midnight on June 25. Nagra was driving a commercial truck with Ontario, Canada license plates. According to an electronic manifest, the truck was carrying a shipment of 55 storage containers
The commercial truck was referred to the vehicle and cargo inspection system for a non-intrusive X-ray exam. The X-ray showed inconsistencies of the cargo within the entire trailer. As a result, the truck was referred to the Peace Bridge warehouse loading dock for physical examination. During the physical exam of the crates, customs and border protection officers recovered multiple packages of vacuum sealed bags containing a green leafy substance, which field tested positive for the presence of marijuana.
Prosecutors say roughly 8,320 vacuum sealed packages of suspected marijuana weighing about 9,472 pounds were removed from the original shipment containers. The marijuana is valued at about $20 million, according to prosecutors.
“This was an excellent job by our officers from start to finish,” said Port Director Jennifer De La O. “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.”
The massive bust is the latest in a series involving customs and border protection officers working along the northern border, according to Kennedy who said, in recent weeks, agents have prevented illicit drugs valued at nearly $30 million from entering the country.
“For the third time in as many weeks, the diligence of customs and border protection officers has resulted in the seizure of literally tons of illegal controlled substances destined for our country,” Kennedy said.