Two men from Grand Forks were amongst eight arrested in a suspected cross-border drug smuggling operation involving 119 pounds (approximately 54 kilograms) of marijuana.
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the RCMP’s Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) stopped a white 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck on Camp McKinney Road in Oliver and subsequently arrested three males and seized the marijuana.
A green 1995 Toyota 4Runner was located down the road and was connected to the pickup truck. Camouflage clothing and backpacks, other outdoor gear and radios were seized from that vehicle and five more males were arrested – RCMP say the arrests happened without incident.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, the RCMP’s senior media relations officer for the southeast district, said that the vehicles were southbound and it is suspected they were headed to the border.
“Given the evidence and items we recovered – the camouflage clothing and backpacks – it’s indicative that this was going to be an illegal border crossing attempt, is what we allege,” Moskaluk told the Grand Forks Gazette.
“And that was with the purpose of transporting that contraband, that 119 pounds, across the border.”
He also said that some of the suspects had ties to organized crime, though he declined to give details, saying that RCMP were in the process of determining which gang.
“Of the eight, only two were known to police for unrelated incidents,” explained Moskaluk.
“We believe that at least one individual has connections to a known gang but we’re verifying that information at this time.”
The eight suspects were released and will be summoned to court at a later date with the date and time to be determined – their names won’t be released until that time.
The operation was a joint effort and included members from organizations from both sides of the border, including North Okanagan traffic services, South Okanagan traffic services, Oliver and Osoyoos RCMP, the Penticton police dog service, U.S. Border Patrol from the Oroville and Curlew stations and the Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen regional general investigation section.
The RCMP said that IBETs consist of Canadian and American law enforcement agencies sharing information and resources to maximize border security.
“The investigation originated out of the Kelowna area,” Moskaluk said.
“It was an intelligence-led effort over a period of time that culminated with this one stop, obviously interrupting their activities.”
The two males from Grand Forks were 31 and 40 years of age while the other six hailed from other parts of B.C.
Four were from Kelowna, one from Vernon and another from Kaleden and they ranged in age from 22 to 63 years.