Yesterday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) announced an Ontario, Canada man pleaded guilty to exporting cocaine from the United States to Canada thanks to a joint investigation with Canadian border and law enforcement.
According to prosecutors, Parminder Sidhu, 39, of Brampton, Ontario, conspired with Michael Bagri and Ravinder Arora between 2009 and May 2011 to export cocaine from the United States to Canada. Sidhu hired Bagri in September 2010 to pick up and bring back 97 kilograms of cocaine from California. Bagri hid the cocaine in a false compartment in the floor of a tractor trailer which he drove to Cheektowaga, New York, where it was turned over to Ravinder Arora, who then drove the shipment to Canada. When the tractor trailer arrived at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge border crossing it was ushered to a secondary inspection, where HSI special agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized the 97 kilograms of cocaine from the false compartment.
On May 1, 2011, Sidhu, once again ordered Bagri to drive to California and pick up and hid another 26 kilograms of cocaine in a different tractor trailer; this time he was to drive it to a truck stop in Pembroke where it would be picked up by a driver hired by Sidhu. The hired driver exited the truck stop, with Bagri following behind in another vehicle. Agents later stopped the tractor trailer, Sidhu’s vehicle and seized the 26 kilograms of cocaine.
According to prosecutors, a search warrant was obtain and executed on Sidhu’s residence in Canada. At which time, agents discovered drug ledgers which detailed nine additional smuggling trips in 2009 and 2010. These trips involved approximately 1,617 kilograms of cocaine being transported from the United States into Canada.
Arora and Bagri have been convicted of similar charges and are awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for April 9. Sidhu will be sentenced May 28 at 9 a.m., and could be facing between 10 years and life in prison and a $10 million fine.
"This case stands for more than the largest seizure of cocaine in this district’s history," said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul. "Of equal importance, this prosecution demonstrates that American and Canadian law enforcement partners can work seamlessly together to protect the citizens of both countries. For while it may have be true that crime knows no borders, now criminals should realize that our ability to apprehend them also has no geographic limitations."
"Investigations of this scope and caliber would not be possible without the partnerships we have built under the Border Enforcement Security Task Force model, including with our Canadian law enforcement partners," said James C. Spero, special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo. "With these guilty pleas, the Buffalo BEST and the Peel Regional Police Service have dismantled one of the biggest cocaine smuggling organizations to have ever operated in Western New York."