Traffickers thought they had come up with a foolproof plan to illegally import tobacco on a large scale in Quebec in 2015 and 2016. What they did not know was that they had fallen into a trap of deployment rarely seen: their main partner, the people who moved the money and made the deposits, the drivers and even the employees of a warehouse used for this business, everyone worked for the police.
Plot and gangsterism
In recent weeks, two residents of Kahnawake have been tried in a jury trial in Longueuil. Derek White and Hunter Montour, both 46, are charged with gangsterism, conspiracy and fraud against the government for the former, and gangsterism for the latter. In his opening statement, the prosecutor, M e David Moffatt, said that the accused allegedly organizing illegal imports of tobacco from North Carolina to Quebec, and evaded millions of dollars in taxes that should have to be paid to governments. The evidence against them is based in part on the testimony of a money transfer specialist who became a civilian undercover officer (CIA) for the Sûreté du Québec.
This ACI, a Quebecker whose name must be ignored, testified for three days. He explained that he had dealt with the boss of tobacco imports, a certain Sylvain Éthier, twice: from 2009 to 2011, and from 2014 to 2016. Except that after being arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States in 2014, the man started working for the DEA. He explained that at the end of 2014, a certain Michel Faille, nicknamed “the tax specialist”, put him in touch with Sylvain Ethier, because he was looking for someone to make money transfers in North Carolina. , to buy tobacco, and then bring the goods into Canada. According to CREA, Faille contacted him because he owed money to Ethier’s organization,
Pizza, pope and cancer
ACI, Ethier and Faille started communicating on BlackBerry with PGP software (for pretty good privacy ) that allowed them to exchange encrypted messages. The suspects used nicknames, in case the devices fell into the hands of the police. ACI identified Ethier by nicknames related to pizza, such as Pizz, Peperoni or Anchovi (anchovies). Ethier called him Pope or Frenchie. Faille used South to designate ACI. When talking about tobacco, the suspects ironically used the word “cancer”. They never gave the real names of cities; so New York became Nancy, Chicago was Chica and Los Angeles, Lucille. The agent of the AIT was “the cousin” and that of Ethier, “the big one”.
When he bought tobacco in North Carolina, Éthier allegedly tampered with the purchase orders by stating that the consignees of the merchandise were large companies in Quebec, as this attracts less the suspicions of the customs officers. When a representative of a US company asked the AIT which name he should put the delivery, Éthier recommended him to register the name of Georges St-Pierre. During the investigation, Éthier told CREA that it was better to use smaller trucks to enter Kahnawake because the 53 feet were heavily guarded by the police. This surveillance seemed to worry a customer of the reserve nicknamed Plume.
The AIT testified that it made 11 importations of tobacco for Ethier between January 2015 and March 2016. Each importation cost Éthier’s organization $ 80,000. The commissioner of Ethier remitted the sum, counting, to that of the ACI in a restaurant of Laval. Subsequently, the AIT deposited the money in an account in the United States, linked to a tobacco company in North Carolina. Éthier’s organization then handled the transportation of the goods between the tobacco company and a warehouse in the Buffalo area, or in New Jersey. The ACI organization then took over, recovered the tobacco in Buffalo or New Jersey, made it cross the border with the help of a corrupt customs officer – nicknamed the Porte – and delivered him to a warehouse in Saint-Rémi or Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. A password was required for each delivery. The CREA billed Éthier’s organization $ 60,000 to cross the border, the most dangerous stage according to him, and deliver it to Saint-Rémi or Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Part of this $ 60,000 was paid to the driver of the truck and the other to the corrupt customs officer. Except that…
The corrupt customs officer never existed. It was an invention of the ACI. The latter worked for the Sûreté du Québec and had a controller who gave him his BlackBerry, and who had access to all the communications exchanged by the suspects. The ACI commissioner, “the cousin”, was in fact a double agent of the SQ. It was the SQ itself that was depositing money into the accounts of the Legato tobacco company in North Carolina, not without first photographing the stacks of money and reproducing all transaction documents. All truck drivers who worked for CREA and delivered tobacco in Canada were American Homeland Security officers.
Sylvain Ethier was abused from one end to the other. Yet, this is not because he has not doubted at many times. On March 11, 2015, he asked CREA if he knew his driver well, because after a delivery, the “oxen” came to the warehouse and searched everywhere. The ACI reassures him by saying that his driver is reliable and serious, and goes through “white” [cocaine]. Later, Éthier employees think they saw a police officer. “A guy with a long beard and a tattoo all the way down his arm? That’s my guy, “says CREA, who actually describes his own police controller! On March 24th, Éthier’s employees saw two guys in a car in front of the warehouse. “Are you working for the police? “, Plainly asks Éthier at the AIT. ” Yes, but these guys are not mine, “replies, sarcastically, the ACI, according to which Ethier became more and more paranoid. Later, Éthier asks why people took pictures during unloading and if “cousin” works for the police, because the accounts of an individual nicknamed the red Indian were frozen following an investigation involving an informant. ACI tinkers answers to calm the game.
The trial is coming to an end
The accused, Hunter Montour and Derek White, did not know the AIT. The latter was dealing exclusively with Sylvain Ethier. The prosecution in the trial of Montour and White, performed by M e David Moffatt, M e Corinne Girard and M e Guy Marangère, has closed its case. The defense provided by M e Pierre L’Ecuyer and M e Louis Gélinas announced that she would have no counter-evidence to offer, which means that Judge Sophie Bourque of the Superior Court will hear the pleadings of both parties next week. Afterwards, she will give her instructions to the jury, who will then be able to begin her deliberations. Originally, the trial was scheduled to last eight weeks, but it went much faster than expected.