A multi-force police investigation led by the RCMP has dismantled a massive smuggling operation that involved not only tobacco, but marijuana and guns as well.
The 12-month investigation, dubbed Operation Ostone, resulted in 12 people from Cornwall, South Glengarry and Akwesasne being arrested. They now face 83 charges that include participation in activities of criminal organizations, possession of proceeds of crime and smuggling - that's on top of 115 charges that have been laid under the Ontario Tobacco Tax Act.
"Contraband tobacco presents a serious threat to public safety in Canada by contributing to the growth of organized crime," said RCMP Insp. Tim Kimpan, the commander of the RCMP's combined unit that completed the operation.
The year-long investigation had originally focused on tobacco smuggling but it became evident, as time went on, that marijuana and guns - including assault rifles - were being smuggled too.
Police at a press conference Thursday said one particular group would bring large quantities of contraband tobacco across the St. Lawrence River at night onto a pre-arranged shore area. The vessel was operated without navigation lights and those inside covered their faces.
The cigarettes would be be offloaded onto the property and the boat would motor away while the contraband was placed in a storage area on the property. At sunrise the tobacco was loaded onto vehicles and distributed to other warehouses locally, as well as other destinations in the country.
"The success of this investigation demonstrates (law enforcement's) strong nationl and cross-border relationships," said Kimpan, who also made it clear that operations such as this one are not an attack on all Frist Nations people - in this case Akwesasne.
"I dont want to paint all the people of Akwesasne as being involved in smuggling," he said, adding like all populations there are a "small number" in Akwesasne who have taken up the smuggling trade.
Most, if not all of those charged have already appeared in court and many have been released from custody on promises to attend further court appearances.
Leonard Cyr, 62, of Cornwall
David Frank Delormier, 30, South Glengarry
Brian Gowan, 49, Cornwall
Albert Frank Jocko Jr., Akwesasne
Trevor Jacob Jocko, 33, Akwesasne
Jordan Lazore, 20, Akwesasne
Seth Lazore, 28, Akwesasne
Jamie MacDougall, 32, South Glengarry
Brian Montgomery, 35, Akwesasne
Jurgen Reichwein, 50, Cornwall
Elvis Thompson, 55, Akwesasne
Jack Thompson, 27, Akwesasne