By Jorge Barrera and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
The Nigerian network allegedly involved in the recent smuggling of a family of five through Akwesasne has also been linked by authorities to major drug trafficking and an international car theft ring, APTN National News has learned.
The RCMP charged four people earlier this month after the Nigerian family was taken on June 18 by boat across the St. Lawrence River from New York State, through Akwesasne Mohawk territory, to Cornwall, Ont.
Two Akwesasne men, Seth Lazore, 28, and Oren Lazore, 21, along with Brampton, Ont., residents Emmanuel Omoghan, 46, and his father, Felix Omoghan, 66, where charged with human smuggling in connection to the case.
The Conservative government trumpeted arrests with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney praising police for their work.
APTN National News has learned that Emmanuel Omoghan is the brother of Solomon Omoghan, 32, who allegedly ran the main drug trafficking network in Kingston, Ont., until he was busted by police this past summer.
Solomon Omoghan was arrested on June 21 in a Toronto hotel room as part of a wider operation that also saw police execute arrests in Odessa, Ont., and Kingston at the same time. Kingston police said Omoghan allegedly ran the city’s main drug network peddling cocaine, crack, marijuana and crystal meth.
Omoghan was in regular contact with Emmanuel Omoghan and police believe both of the men’s activities were intertwined, according to a Kingston police source.
The Kingston police investigation revealed the Omoghans were connected to a wider network also involved in human smuggling and a car theft ring that moved vehicles stolen in Toronto to Nigeria.
Kingston police passed on the information to Toronto police and the RCMP.
Based on Solomon Omoghan’s previous criminal history, it appears the network doesn’t shy away from using violence execute business. Omoghan went to jail for four years in 2000 after a violent home invasion where he burst into a drug dealer’s home and pointed a loaded gun at a woman and put a knife to her throat before binding her hands and ankles with duct tape and covering her eyes and mouth.
Spending time in the Kingston penitentiary didn’t stem his criminal activity. While inside he managed to get his hands on marijuana and attempted to smuggle cash into the prison.
The parole documents show Omoghan went straight back into the drug trade once he was released from prison and was suspected of involvement in a large trafficking operation as early as 2006.
His brother, Emmanuel Omoghan, was out on bail when he was arrested earlier this month in connection with smuggling the Nigerian family into Canada. In February, Omoghan was charged, along with another man, with “aiding and abetting the illegal movement of people into Canada” after he was seen helping four foreign nationals disembark from a boat at the Cornwall Harbour Warf.
Omoghan was also charged with possession and use of a fraudulent passport.
The Mohawk territory of Akwesasne sits about 120 kilometres west of Montreal and straddles the Ontario, Quebec and Canada-U.S. borders, with Cornwall on the north shore and Massena, N.Y. on the south shore.
Given its geography and the fierce nationalism of the Mohawks, the region has developed into a main corridor for smuggling for tobacco and guns going north and marijuana heading south.
Canadian authorities have long contended that criminal networks have attempted to exploit the unique location of Akwesasne for illicit ends and it appears this particular network was using the area to smuggle people into Canada.
Earlier this week, Seth Lazore told APTN National News that he believed the network had put a hit out on his life. While he was in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Lazore said he was told inmates in the jail were looking to kill him at the request of the network.
Lazore said all he did was try to help a family seeking a better life travel through Mohawk territory.
“I didn’t do nothing wrong in my eyes and I’m sure in a lot of other’s eyes, just helping a family out get into Canada,” said Lazore, in the backyard of the Akwesasne home where he’s been ordered to live. “I don’t even think there is a border there…This is our land, this is the Mohawks’ land…The way I look at it, there ain’t no boundaries and borders around here.”
He said the family was trying to escape a miserable situation in Chicago and get into Canada where they hoped to reunite with extended family and start a new life.
“They were living a horrible life in Chicago,” he said. “They were saying they were getting their paycheques taking from them and everything out there, they were working basically for free. They were living on…maybe $100 a week…they were talking about coming to Canada, starting a new life, they would get loans or whatever.”