News and Press Releases

Vancouver BC Resident Arrested as Cruise Ship Docks in Miami

March 25, 2008

CHARLES LAI, 42, of Vancouver, B.C., was arrested over the weekend as the cruise ship he was on arrived in Miami, Florida. LAI was indicted March 20, 2008, by a grand jury in Seattle for Conspiracy to Export Cocaine, Conspiracy to Import Marijuana and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime. The conspiracy counts involve drug trafficking over the last five years. The gun crime relates to a specific shipment of cocaine and firearms that were seized at the Canadian border in October 2007.

LAI will be transported to the Western District of Washington for arraignment on the indictment. Conspiracy to Export Cocaine is punishable by ten years to life in prison, and a $4 million fine. Conspiracy to Import Marijuana is punishable by five to forty years in prison and a $2 million fine. Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime is punishable by an additional consecutive five year sentence on top of any underlying sentence, and a $250,000 fine.

LAI was charged as part of a joint Canadian-United States investigation that led to a major seizure of cocaine in October 2007. On October 24 and 25, 2007, Blaine and Seattle ICE agents followed a suspected drug courier, Canadian Herman Riar, as he entered the United States at the Blaine border crossing. He was observed driving to a Bothell storage unit, loading boxes (later found to contain cocaine) into his vehicle, and driving back north, crossing the border again at Blaine. After Riar crossed into Canada, Canadian authorities followed and stopped him. They seized approximately 228 kilograms of cocaine from his vehicle. They also found three guns packed alongside the cocaine. Canadian news reports state that Shminder Johal, 34, and Riar, 26, both of Richmond, B.C., were charged in Canada with smuggling $6 million in cocaine and three guns. The news reports also state that Baljinder Kandola, a six-year veteran Canadian Border Guard, was arrested for his involvement in allowing criminal organizations to pass through into Canada from the United States.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Doug Whalley and Patricia Lally.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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