A truck driver who is a Canadian national has been accused of smuggling in more than 850 pounds of cocaine in order to sell it, the Justice Department announced Friday.
On Monday, Ahmed El Kady, 37, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, entered the U.S. in a commercial truck through the Detroit port of entry.
Mr. El Kady did not have a commercial trailer attached, but told U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers that he would be picking one up in the Detroit area, according to the criminal complaint cited in the DOJ release.
Mr. El Kady was followed by investigators as he took the truck to the TA Travel Center in Dexter, Michigan.
Mr. El Kady had an exchange with the drivers of two other commercial trucks, the nature of which was not specified by the DOJ. Mr. El Kady then drove to Ohio and onwards to Buffalo, where he arrived on Wednesday evening.
After spending Wednesday night in a Buffalo-area truck stop, Mr. El Kady was joined by his wife Maja Tambur on Thursday, according to the DOJ.
The two got into Ms. Tambur’s car and drove to Niagara Falls; the DOJ alleges that the car stopped frequently and was driven evasively, purportedly to try and lose surveillance trailing them.
After their drive to and around Niagara Falls, Mr. El Kady and Ms. Tambur attempted to return to the commercial truck, still parked at the Buffalo-area truck stop. By then, however, a search warrant had been issued and then carried out on the truck.
Law enforcement seized 850.64 pounds (386 kilograms) of cocaine, and Mr. El Kady was subsequently arrested, according to the court documents cited by the DOJ release.
Mr. El Kady has been charged with possession of five or more kilograms of cocaine with the intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine, and conspiracy to gain possession of five or more kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute.
If he is found guilty, Mr. El Kady faces on each charge a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a $10 million fine.
Authorities say the seizure could be the biggest in the region’s history.
“From what I understand, this may be the largest cocaine seizure in Western New York or, even, perhaps, the northern border,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Scarpino said, according to the Buffalo News.
Determining the exact street value of the seized drugs is difficult because while a kilo of cocaine goes for around $30,000 in the U.S., it goes for about $50,000 in Toronto, Mr. Scarpino explained to the Buffalo News.
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