Trucker Drug Busts at the U.S. Canada Border

Don’t Do The Crime if You Can’t Do The Time: Truckers Caught Importing Cocaine at the Canada U.S. Border

Does crime pay? Not if you are one of the following individuals, commercial truck drivers arrested trying to bring narcotics across the Canada/U.S. border

Last week, a Canadian man pleaded guilty to trafficking large quantities of cocaine by tractor-trailer, according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office Northern District of New York.

Guillaume Latour-Laitre, age 26, of Prevost, Quebec, pled guilty on May 24, 2023, to
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Latour-Laitre admitted that from November 2019 through December 7, 2019, as vice president of a commercial trucking company in Quebec, he trafficked cocaine from the United States to Canada via tractor-trailer. On December 7, 2019, Latour-Laitre co-conspirator and employee at the trucking company, Jason Nelson, attempted to leave the United States for Canada at the Derby Line, Vermont Port of Entry. At the border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers performed an outbound inspection on Nelson's tractor-trailer. They discovered approximately 142 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a secret compartment in the trailer.

Latour-Laitre was extradited from Canada in December 2022 to face the charges. On April 27, 2022, Nelson received a sentence of 72 months in prison and five years of supervised release.

At sentencing, scheduled for October 12, 2023, Latour-Laitre faces at least ten years and up to life in prison, a term of supervised release of between 5 years and life, and a maximum fine of $10 million.

In a similar case near Alberta in 2021, a Canadian truck driver admitted to a drug trafficking crime after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found 211 pounds of cocaine in a trailer load of bananas during an inspection as the driver was attempting to enter Canada said acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson.

Gurpal Singh Gill, 39, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine as charged in superseding information. Gill faces a mandatory minimum of five to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine and at least four years of supervised release.

According to court documents, on January 30, 2021, Customs and Border Protection CBP
officers at the Sweetgrass Port of Entry in Toole County targeted commercial drivers destined for Canada from the United States.

At about 8 p.m., officers observed a freightliner semi-truck with Alberta license plates travelling north on Interstate 15 at the Sweetgrass Port of Entry. Officers identified Gill as the driver and sole occupant of the semi-truck. Upon initial inspection, officers learned Gill was transporting a load of fresh bananas from California to Calgary. However, a missing rear seal on the truck trailer led to a secondary inspection. Officers observed seven unmarked boxes sitting on top of bananas in the back of the trailer. The unmarked boxes were a different color and size from the boxes of bananas. Officers opened the boxes and found a white powdery substance that appeared to be cocaine. An analysis by the Drug Enforcement Administration determined the packages contained about 211 pounds of cocaine.

And there are a number of similar cases like this that truckers should know about.

At yet another U.S. border crossing, this one at the Sarnia border, officials confirmed that a
suspect arrested in mid-December 2022 at the Blue Water Bridge and charged with importing cocaine was a trucker, bumping 2022’s total to seven drivers charged at the Sarnia-area border.

Eighty-four bricks of suspected cocaine weighing approximately 84 kilograms were seized on December 14, 2022, after a commercial truck crossing the border from Michigan to
Southwestern Ontario was sent for a secondary examination. An RCMP spokesperson said the seized drugs could be worth between $3.9 million and $4.2 million, although that value would vary based on purity and quality.

Chander Sidhar, 55, of Caledon, has been charged with importing cocaine and possession of
cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, officials said. He was granted bail in January 2023.

After the event, Marco Mendicino, Canada’s minister of public safety, was quoted as saying, “The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority. I want to thank the dedicated CBSA and RCMP officers for their excellent work stopping dangerous narcotics from entering the country”.

An Nguyen, the regional director of operations for the Canada Border Services Agency, said the seizure demonstrates the hard work and diligence of the two organizations, while Rae Bolsterli, a superintendent with the RCMP, said it shows their commitment to disrupting the flow of illegal drugs from coming into Canada.

The RCMP also thanked the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada for their help with the investigation.

The temptation to cross borders with contraband and illegal substances will not suddenly go away. Harsh and severe punishment may be one of the only answers to deter that temptation.

Those that carry drugs in or out of Canada can be charged with trafficking. The consequences of which are some of the most severe under Canadian law.

You could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of carrying more than one kilogram of a
Schedule I substance. Drugs listed as Schedule I include hard drugs such as cocaine and
heroin, but also methamphetamine, GHB, and Rohypno.

Arrested and convicted importers of cocaine (and other drugs) face lengthy jail time and stiff fines. Their lives and those of their families changed forever. Only they can answer if it was worth it or not.

Who knows why anyone, including these unfortunate truckers, would take the chance of running drugs across a border? Desperation and financial worries can make any sane person do things that seem far from sane.

These arrests and the gravity of their convictions should make anyone ask if the gamble to
cross the border with large amounts of drugs is worth it.

For anyone even contemplating taking that gamble, you must ask yourself one simple question.

Can you afford to do the time if caught doing the crime?

While a teenager Tony was fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue his love of aviation and began a career began in the airline world during his days in high school and university as he grew up in Toronto. After completing University at Guelph he moved to Ottawa, following a path in urban agriculture and environmental awareness. He shared his insights for over 2 decades as he appeared on TV, and radio, as the "Plant D octor", and operating his own business in horticulture. Later he reentered the transport industry and became involved in the manufacture and marketing of sustainable fuel-saving and safety products for the truck industry. He is director of an African American art collection based in Washington D.C. Today he writes passionately about transportation, sustainability, concerns of our modern-day world, and the intrigue of the human condition.