ONE hundred and thirty-two kilograms of cocaine and 40,000 fentanyl pills were prevented from reaching communities in BC and across Canada thanks to a coordinated effort by the Waterfront Joint Forces Operation unit of the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime section, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Two individuals are now facing charges ranging from importing a controlled substance to possession for the purpose of trafficking in connection with the seizures, the RCMP announced on Tuesday.
The RCMP were first alerted to the pending shipment, bound for metro Vancouver, in February 2016 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers at the U.S Los Angeles / Long Beach seaport discovered three roller suitcases inside a refrigerated container arriving from Brazil that was in transit to the Port of Vancouver, B.C.
While inspecting the suitcases, the CBP officers found 110 packages containing more than 130 kilograms of a white powdery substance which tested positive for cocaine. CBP quickly notified Los Angeles-based special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which oversees the multi-agency Los Angeles / Long Beach Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST). The BEST, in close coordination with HSI’s attaché office in Vancouver, then opened a formal probe and began collaborating closely with Canadian authorities to obtain further evidence about the circumstances surrounding the shipment and identify possible suspects.
“We believe they were ‘tailgating’,” explained Superintendent Cal Chrustie, head of major projects for the BC RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime section. That’s when drug traffickers piggyback a legitimate shipment of goods.
The RCMP intercepted two alleged drug traffickers in February 2016, arresting them shortly after the shipment was picked up from the shipping container. At that time police also gathered evidence to support a search warrant for a Richmond apartment, where numerous exhibits were seized, including 40,000 Fentanyl pills and a 1 kg brick of methamphetamine.
“These seizures would definitely have impacted the transnational organized crime networks involved,” said Chrustie. “Even more importantly, we believe that preventing these drugs from reaching our communities has undoubtedly saved countless lives.”
Yan Chau Lam (aka Andrew Lam), 48, of Richmond, has been charged with one count of conspiring to import a controlled substance, one count of conspiring to possess a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, and three counts of unlawfully possessing a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
Gertrude Cheong (aka Sok Wai Cheong), 43, of Vancouver, faces one count of conspiring to possess a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
Both Lam and Cheong have been released on bail, and are scheduled to be back in court in Richmond on October 31.