By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
U.S. authorities are investigating whether a Venezuelan-based criminal organization with Montreal ties has used Akwesasne Mohawk territory to smuggle cocaine from Canada into New York State, APTN National News has learned.
The investigation stems from an ongoing case involving a Venezuelan-Canadian woman from Montreal nicknamed “Perla” who recently admitted to heading a drug smuggling operation that moved large amounts of ecstasy and “foxy methoxy” pills from Cornwall, Ont., into New York State through Akwesasne, which straddles the Canada-U.S. border.
During the course of the investigation, U.S. authorities came across information indicating that a Venezuelan organization was flying cocaine from the South American country to Montreal. The product was then moved into the U.S. through Akwesasne, according to information provided to APTN National News.
The Quebec, Ontario and New York State borders all intersect in Akwesasne, which sits about 120 kilometres west of Montreal. The territory’s geographic location coupled with local knowledge of the St. Lawrence River system has spawned a lucrative economy based on the movement of goods across the international boundary which many Mohawk people there view as nothing more than an imaginary line imposed by two foreign powers.
The region has attracted the attention of numerous organized crime groups over the years, from the Hells Angels to foreign criminal organizations based in Nigeria, looking to move people and contraband between Canada and the U.S.
There is growing frustration within Akwesasne with outside criminal elements bringing violence and strife among local residents. There is growing talk of trying to push these elements out and re-establishing full control of Akwesasne’s territory.
The presence of criminal networks trying to exploit already existing routes from Canada into the U.S. to move cocaine, however, would add another potentially explosive dimension to an already embattled community.
The majority of the seizures in and around Akwesasne involve cigarettes, marijuana and pills, with Quebec-grown weed and Canadian-made tablets moving south and smokes moving north.
While cocaine is known to flow through the region, it usually goes north, often as payment for pot and pill shipments which feed demand in places like Boston and New York City.
The established facts in the pill smuggling case fit the known patterns.
According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court for the northern New York district last month, Venezuelan-Canadian Daisy Realza, who is also nicknamed “Chama,” obtained tens of thousands of pills from Montreal and then arranged to have them transported from Cornwall across the St. Lawrence River by “boatmen” into Snye, a portion of Akwesasne that is in Quebec but only accessible by road through the U.S.
Couriers would then take the pills to “wholesale narcotics dealers” in New York City and Boston who would pay for the contraband with cash and “kilograms of cocaine” bound for a return trip to Montreal.
Realza’s organization delivered approximately 50,000 pills per run which would happen several times a month, according to the facts admitted to in the plea agreement.
Realza’s network was eventually infiltrated by an undercover agent who posed as a courier.
The case against Realza and at least eight others spanned from 2009 to March 24 of this year.
According to the agreed statement of facts in the plea agreement, Realza received between $1,000 and $1,500 per pill shipment from her Montreal supplier and an unspecified amount for every kilogram of cocaine delivered to Montreal.
APTN National News has seen no evidence linking Realza or any of the other eight individuals indicted along with her in the case of having ties to the alleged Venezuelan cocaine shipments.