Stranded boaters rescued, later arrested with contraband: CRTF

CORNWALL, ON, Nov. 22, 2012 /CNW/ - In the late evening hours of October 24th, 2012, while conducting surveillance along the St. Lawrence River, near Cooper's Marsh, in South Glengarry, members of the CRTF spotted two suspicious vessels near the shore. Shortly thereafter, members approached the shore and spotted a van parked near the water's edge. Stephane LITALIEN (age 25) and Phillip CAVANAUGH (age 24), both from Cornwall, fled from the scene on foot, but were caught and arrested by CRTF members. Twenty-eight (28) cases of contraband cigarettes were seized from the vehicle.

In the early morning hours of November 2nd, 2012, while conducting surveillance, CRTF members noted unusual boat activity in the Bainsville area. The members closed in on the closest shoreline and observed individuals moving contraband from the shore to a dock.  Upon the members' approach, the suspects attempted to hide in a forested area near an adjoining boathouse, but were unsuccessful. Patrick DESJARDINS (age 38) from Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC and Harley VINCENT (age 29) from Les Coteaux, QC, were arrested. Ninety (90) cases of contraband tobacco were seized along with a pair of night-vision goggles.

Around midnight on November 4th, 2012, during surveillance, CRTF members were led to a shoreline campground in South Glengarry. When police arrived, 100 cases of contraband tobacco were found abandoned.  During the later questioning of a suspect , the police arrested Alexander MILLAR (age 20) from Lancaster, ON, who was also found to be in possession of a substance believed to be cocaine.

On the afternoon of November 5th, 2012, a boat was observed arriving at the north side of the river at the foot of McConnell Avenue, Cornwall, ON. Two (2) cases of contraband tobacco, wrapped in black garbage bags, were then passed from the vessel occupant to a nearby cyclist.  Police arrested the cyclist, Blake ATWELL (age 37) from Cornwall.

On November 8th, 2012, CRTF members were called to the Cornwall Port of Entry (POE) to take custody of Charlie GOODLEAF (age 27) from Kahnawake, QC, and Nihawennah LAHACHE-MCCOMBER (age 30) from Rooseveltown, NY.  Both individuals were caught at the POE with twenty-two (22) cases of contraband tobacco, which was seized along with a 2010 Ford F-150.

On November 10th, 2012, CRTF members observed a smuggling vessel coming to shore in South Glengarry and departing shortly thereafter. Fifty (50) cases of contraband tobacco were found stacked on the shoreline. The police conducted surveillance and eventually, a Ford F-150 pickup truck arrived at the location, and the lone male driver exited his vehicle and began loading the cases into the cab. Jeremy LEBLANC (age 18) from Alexandria was arrested by CRTF members

On November 11th, 2012, while conducting surveillance in South Glengarry, CRTF members observed a smuggling boat heading east along the Seaway with three (3) occupants and numerous bags of contraband tobacco aboard. Members noted that the boat appeared to be suffering engine difficulties and began drifting and the occupants were observed tossing the contraband overboard. CRTF and OPP marine vessels were deployed to rescue the stranded boaters. Kristian SMOKE (age 20) from Akwesasne, NY, Austin THOMPSON (age 20) from Akwesasne, QC, and Skylar CROUSE (age 23) from Fort Covington, NY, were arrested and charged by the CRTF.   Forty-three (43) bags containing a total of eight hundred and seventy (870) kilograms of fine cut tobacco were fished from the water. The smuggling boat was also seized as a conveyance in the offence.  THOMPSON and CROUSE were both held in custody pending their bail hearings.

On November 15th, 2012, CBSA officers advised the CRTF that a vehicle had run through the Cornwall POE without stopping for inspection. A concerned citizen later reported that a vehicle, matching the description provided by CBSA, had tossed out five (5) boxes of cigarettes in a residential area. CRTF members attended and seized the contraband.

On November 17th, 2012, while conducting surveillance along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, CRTF members were led to a boathouse in South Glengarry. The owner of the property was unaware that his boathouse was being used for smuggling, and thirty-seven (37) cases of contraband cigarettes were seized from it.

On November 19th, 2012, while on patrol, CRTF members followed a suspicious vessel to the riverside in a known smuggling area in Bainsville. The officers closed in on the suspected drop location; the smuggling boat had left, but members discovered one hundred (100) cases of contraband cigarettes sitting on a residence's dock.  The owner of the property indicated she had no knowledge of the contraband and asked that same be removed.

The individuals noted above, who have been charged under the provisions of the Excise Act, 2001, also face charges under the provincial Tobacco Tax Act for possession of unmarked cigarettes.

If you have any information regarding criminal activity in your area, you can contact the CRTF at 1-613-937-2800 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

The CRTF is a joint forces partnership that includes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada Border Services Agency, Ontario Provincial Police, Cornwall Community Police Service and the Ontario Ministry of Finance.

SOURCE: Cornwall Regional Task Force

For further information:

Contacts:

Sgt. Lee Côté
Cornwall RTF
613-937-7356

Sgt. Kristine Rae
Ontario Provincial Police
613-285-5479