BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Border agents found nearly 9500 pounds (4,300 kilograms) of marijuana hidden in a commercial truck entering Buffalo from Canada in the biggest drug seizure on record at the northern border, authorities said Monday.
The driver, Prabjot Nagra, faces federal charges after an X-ray of his trailer at the Peace Bridge on June 25 revealed irregularities that led Customs and Border Protection officers to examine its contents. They found wooden shipping containers holding 8,320 vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana valued at $20 million.
It was the third big marijuana seizure at the Peace Bridge this month and continues a sharp spike in seizures at ports of entry throughout New York.
On June 5, more than $2 million worth of marijuana was seized after it came across the Peace Bridge in a truck carrying coffee makers. On June 13, more than 3300 pounds (1,496 kilograms) of marijuana worth more than $5 million was found hidden in a truckload of peat moss from Canada.
Traffic at the border has been severely curtailed since March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with all but commercial and essential traffic banned. Authorities have blamed the uptick in seizures in part on criminals hoping to exploit pandemic-related vulnerabilities.
Canada legalized recreational marijuana in October 2018.
Since October 2019, CBP officers at 16 ports of entry in New York have made more than 700 narcotic seizures totaling more than 20,180 pounds (9,153 kilograms) -- an increase of about 2,000% from the same time period a year ago, the agency said.
“The resurgence of large-scale illicit marijuana seizures is alarming and brazen given the public health crisis,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly said. “HSI and CBP will always work together to thwart and deter those criminal organizations that attempt to exploit our borders.”
Nagra, 26, a citizen of India, was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. At an initial court appearance Saturday, Nagra asked for an attorney to be appointed and was ordered held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday.