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Homeland Security continues probe into massive drug conspiracy

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photo by Joyce Kryszak
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U.S. Attorney William Hochul with law enforcement and border officials

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-985253.mp3

Buffalo, NY – A Canadian man faces life in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday for his part in a massive international cocaine smuggling conspiracy.

Last September, 30-year old Ravinder Arora was arrested at the border by Canadian and United States border officials. They seized nearly one hundred kilograms of cocaine in a compartment under the floor of a tractor trailer being driven by Arora.

Border officials found the drugs after suspecting something strange about markings on the floor of the truck and then ripping up the floorboards.

Earlier X-rays and Kanine dogs failed to detect the drugs. James Engleman with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said officers are determined to use all means to protect the border.

"Officers here in the port of entry do not rely on any one specific technology or tool to make a determination to release or refer a subject of conveyance. Their decisions are based upon the totality of their inspection," said Engleman. "And in this case the officers followed their gut instinct."

The investigation that followed the seizure found that, in all, over one and a half tons of cocaine was smuggled during ten trips from the U.S. to Canada.

The cocaine came in from California and were then stored in a warehouse on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga before being trucked over to Canada. Marijuana and ecstasy also were smuggled from Canada into the U.S. Prosecution of two other suspects involved in the smuggling conspiracy is being pursued. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William Hochul said the case is definitely not over.

"97 kilograms of high-quality cocaine is certainly indicative of a fairly substantial organization," said Hochul. "And we do intend to work not only with our Canadian partners, but all other law enforcement officers as we are able, along with other American authorities that are located outside of Western New York."

Court papers state that Arora was hired by Parminder Sidhu, owner of the Canadian trucking company. Extradition proceedings are underway to bring him to the U.S. Another suspect, Michael Bagri, is being held in the U.S.

Border officials said that Sidhu was not certified with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection registry where companies voluntarily provide advance electronic lists detailing cargo being transported in their trucks.