Police arrest 28 in tobacco busts
Police have arrested 28 suspects and are on the hunt for seven others in a major tobacco raid Wednesday.
Police raided 32 locations and seized $450,000 in cash, 40,000 kg of tobacco (worth $7 million), 1,300 marijuana plants, one 9 mm pistol, and 14 vehicles in an operation targeting suspected illicit tobacco dealers.
About 400 officers were involved in the operation which is, according to the SQ provincial police, aimed at aboriginal organized crime and Montreal Mafia networks.
Nicola Valvano, said to be one of the ringleaders, was among those arrested.
Police, speaking at a morning press conference, said that underground tobacco sales deprive the province of about $20 million in tax revenues per year.
The raids hit such targets as a building on Jean Talon in St. Leonard, a home in Anjou and a strip club in Dundee, near the U.S. border.
Surete du Quebec Sgt. Joyce Kemp said the bulk tobacco which made its way into Canada in big trucks purchased by the Mafia in North Carolina.
"It was hidden with other merchandise (and) often what was used was cedar mulch to hide the (odour) of the tobacco," said Kemp.
Police said the tobacco was imported through the Lacolle border crossing or through the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve. The cigarettes were then allegedly sold on the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal.
Police involved in the raid included forces from the SQ, RCMP, as well as police from Montreal, Akwesasne, Longueuil, Laval, Chateauguay, St. Jean, Richelieu-Saint Laurent, and Roussillon.
SQ police representative Michel Pelletier said that ringleaders would purchase the tobacco in the United States and transport it via the Lacolle border crossing or the Akwesasne reserve and would then sell it on the Kahnawake reserve.
A SQ spokesman reported that the provincial police undertake 1,500 tobacco-based operations across Quebec each year, leading to about 1,600 arrests.
Those arrested are:Nicola Valvano, Franco Albanese, Steven Petrilli and Alessandro Barone of St. Leonard. Georges Fayad and Antonio Mercogliano of Laval, Anthony David Jr., Tracy-Ann David-Doggett, Fallon David, Alexander Christopher Thompson and David Kyle Bennedict of Akwesasne, Yanis Yotis, Adam Vincent Greig, Nighi Ahn Quan Nguyen, Van Tam Tran, Thi Ut Tran,Joseph Ortenza, , Giuseppe Fracasso, David Seguin and Raja Tariq Mehmood of Montreal, Kanenriio Ross and Michael Rossetti, of Kahanawake, Marcello Lopez of St. Laurent, Mahir Malki of Bois des Filions and Marion Hart of Dundee,
Those still being sought are: Sylvain Bertha (Riguad), Juan Carmona (Repentigny), Carlo Colapelle (Anjou), Ahmed Perillo El Armaoui (St. Leonard) Davary Bauersfeld (Kahnawake) and Duong Van Truong (Montreal).
With a report from The Canadian Press