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Canadian man pleads in case involving largest seizure of cocaine in district history

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2014

          BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Parminder Sidhu, 39, of Brampton, Ontario, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to export from the United States five kilograms or more of cocaine before Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, a $10,000,000 fine or both.

“This case stands for more than the largest seizure of cocaine in this District’s history,” said U.S. Attorney 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 team and the Peel Regional Police Service have dismantled one of the biggest cocaine smuggling organizations to have ever operated in Western New York.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch, who is handling the case, stated that between 2009 and May 10, 2011, the defendant conspired with Michael Bagri and Ravinder Arora to export cocaine from the United States to Canada. In September 2010, Sidhu hired defendant Bagri to travel to California to pick up cocaine. Defendant Bagri then hid 97 kilograms of cocaine in a false compartment in the floor of a tractor trailer. The tractor trailer was then driven to Cheektowaga, N.Y. where it was turned over to defendant Ravinder Arora. Defendant Arora then proceeded to Canada. At the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Special Agents with the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol seized the 97 kilograms of cocaine from the false compartment during a secondary inspection.

On May 1, 2011, Sidhu directed defendant Bagri to travel once again to California. After hiding another 26 kilograms of cocaine in another tractor trailer, the rig was driven to a truck stop in Pembroke, N.Y. The tractor trailer was then picked up by a driver hired by Parminder Sidhu. As the driver exited the truck stop, Bagri followed behind in another vehicle. Agents later stopped the tractor trailer and Sidhu’s vehicle and seized the 26 kilograms of cocaine.

During the execution of a search warrant at Sidhu’s residence in Canada, agents discovered drug ledgers which detailed nine addition smuggling trips in 2009 and 2010. These trips involved approximately 1,617 kilograms of cocaine being transported from the United States into Canada.

Defendants Ravinder Arora and Michael Bagri have been convicted of similar charges and are awaiting sentencing which is scheduled for April 9, 2014.             

The plea is the result of an investigation by Special Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero, Officers from the United States Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Randy Howe, Acting Director of Field Operations, the Peel Regional Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jennifer Evans, the Canada Border Services Agency, under the direction of Rick Comerford, Regional Director General, Southern Ontario Region and the Toronto Police, under the direction of Chief William Blair.

Sidhu will be sentenced on May 28, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. before Chief Judge Skretny.

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