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SYRACUSE - A Canadian drug trafficking ring used the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in Upstate New York to smuggle more than 22,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States, state and federal authorities said Tuesday.
The international ring was run by Mickey Woods of Cornwall, Ontario, and made as much as $45 million smuggling pot into the eastern U.S. between 2005 and 2008, said acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Baxter.
Woods, 38, and his courier manager, Gaetan Dinelle, 35, also of Cornwall, were among 34 people charged Tuesday on drug conspiracy and possession counts by a federal grand jury. Of those charged, 23 were Canadians.

The ring mostly supplied buyers in Boston, but also sent shipments to Albany; Burlington, Vt.; Springfield, N.J.; York, Pa.; Silver Springs, Md.; Richmond, Va.; Philadelphia and Atlanta, Baxter said.

"Akwesasne (St. Regis) has long been exploited by criminal organizations that are looking to smuggle narcotics because of its unique position straddling the border between the United States and Canada," Baxter said.

This was at least the fourth time in the past decade that federal authorities have broken up a major drug smuggling operation working through the remote northern New York reservation, which is split by the St. Lawrence River, Baxter said.
Nine people, including four Canadians, were arrested Tuesday, but Woods and Dinelle remained at large, Baxter said. Prosecutors could not say if any of the defendants had lawyers.

Baxter said prosecutors were asking the other defendants to surrender or U.S. authorities will begin efforts to apprehend and extradite them.

If convicted of the conspiracy and possession charges, most of the defendants would face between 10 to 40 years in federal prison as well as fines that could reach $4 million each.

Woods and Dinelle were also charged with leading a continuing criminal enterprise and each faces a mandatory life term.

Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the $45 million in illegal drug proceeds.
During their investigation, authorities seized nearly 900 pounds of marijuana and nearly $2 million in drug money, Baxter said.

Woods and his underlings would smuggle the marijuana across the St. Lawrence River, using boats in the warm weather and snowmobiles and ATVs when the river froze over, said Maj. Richard Smith, commander of Troop B in Ray Brook.

The ring operated in Cornwall out of the home of Debbie Francis, who investigators identified as a coordinator and facilitator for the organization, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Eurenius, who is prosecuting the case. Francis was among those arrested Tuesday.

The ring stored most of its marijuana at a stash house on the U.S. side of the reservation owned by Mark Smoke, 37, of Hogansburg, Smith said.

From St. Regis, couriers would load the marijuana in the trunks of rented cars and then drive to their distribution locations, Smith said. Nearly all the couriers were Canadians, said Eurenius.

http://www.theithacajournal.com/article/20081119/NEWS01/81119007
 
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