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PAM DOUGLAS, Staff Writer

10/09/05 00:00:00

The owner and operators of two Brampton trucking companies have been accused
of smuggling truckloads of marijuana into the United States following a
two-year police investigation.
Police seized 5,000 pounds of marijuana and $1.3 million in U.S. currency
during Project Pigeon led by Peel police Intelligence Bureau and involving
border agencies, the RCMP and American law enforcement. Investigators also
seized $454,000 worth of smuggled diamonds and $100,000 in stolen goods
during the course of the investigation.
Avinderjit Dhaliwal, 35, of Brampton, the co-owner of Freeway Group Systems
on Steeles Avenue East, and Yadwinder Singh Dhillon, 28, of Brampton, former
president of Ameri-Can Logitran and now associated to Atlantic Carriers on
Steeles Avenue East, were arrested on extradition warrants from Michigan.
They will be extradited and tried in the United States on charges of
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. The charge
carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence, according to lead investigator,
Det. Stephen Duivesteyn.
Police are accusing the pair of working with Asian and Caribbean organized
crime groups within Canada and the U.S. More arrests are expected.
Some of the marijuana seized in the recent probe was locally grown, but much
of it was also transported across Canada from British Columbia, according to
Duivesteyn.
"They like going through Ontario borders because of the volume," Duivesteyn
said.
Many of the shipments were going to New Jersey and Chicago, although some
were headed for Arizona and California. Seizures at border crossings were
being linked to Brampton, and that is what originally sparked the
investigation.
"The investigation was developed to focus on the upper echelons of the crime
syndicates," Duivesteyn said. "What we have witnessed are lower-level
players, such as drivers, occasionally getting caught at the border. The
upper echelons of the crime syndicates such as the owners and operators, who
essentially are the masterminds and planners in the operation, were able to
avoid being arrested and prosecuted."
Drivers can make more than $10,000 a load to take marijuana across the
border, according to investigators. Duivesteyn said marijuana growers
sometimes approach trucking company operators and drivers and the lure of
big money draws them to smuggling.
The investigation involved Peel police Intelligence Bureau officers along
with the RCMP, OPP, Canada Border Services Agency and law enforcement
agencies from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and United States
Customs.
"Legitimate, honest, reputable transportation firms have expressed their
disgust in observing the criminal element imbedded in the transportation
industry," Duivesteyn said. "With high fuel rates, small companies struggle
to stay afloat. Meanwhile, in a short time period they witness these once
small companies purchasing brand new equipment and the owners and operators
driving around town in high-end personal vehicles."
He said smugglers will undercut the freight rate of legitimate trucking
companies so they have legitimate loads to cover their smuggling.
"They will undercut the price so they can guarantee themselves freight to a
pre-determined destination where organized crime groups want the marijuana
delivered in Canada and the United States. The criminal element can afford
to undercut the freight costs because they are receiving such large,
lucrative payouts as a result of transporting the drugs hidden in the
freight."
During the investigation, a transport truck intercepted near Cornwall
contained 234 pounds of marijuana concealed inside futon mattresses that had
been professionally repacked.
An Atlantic Carriers truck stopped in Canadian County, Oklahoma, contained 1
300 pounds of marijuana and a Freeway Group Systems truck intercepted at the
Fort Erie border crossing had more than $1 million in U.S. cash hidden in
the cab of the truck, according to police.
In April, Donovan Cole, 35, of Burlington was arrested in the U.S. and has
been indicted in Michigan for conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute marijuana. Police accuse him of being a co-conspirator in the
smuggling operation.
Anyone with information is asked to call Peel police at 905-453-3311, ext.
8800 or Peel Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
 
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