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Bodies of eight people found in Akwesasne

The Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service (AMPS) is continuing to investigate after the bodies of six people were found in a marsh area in Tsi Snaihne (Snye), Akwesasne, during an air search on Thursday, March 30 around 5 p.m. The bodies of one adult and a child were recovered from the water on the following day.

The deputy chief of police for the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, Lee-Ann O’Brien, provided an update on March 31 concerning the discovery of the bodies of six adults and two children under the age of three, as well as the disappearance of a 30-year-old man from Akwesasne named Casey Oakes.

According to police, the individuals are believed to be members of two families, one of Romanian descent and the other being citizens of India. One of the adult males has been identified as 28-year-old Florin Lordache, who was carrying Canadian passports belonging to a two-year-old child and a one-year-old infant. An adult female has also been identified as 28-year-old Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Lordache. As of press time, the identities of the four Indian nationals remain unconfirmed and police are continuing to work with Immigration Canada to assist with identification and to ensure any next of kin are notified. All of the victims are believed to have been attempting illegal entry into the U.S. from Canada.

O’Brien confirmed that investigations into the circumstances surrounding the individuals’ death are ongoing. 

The bodies were found near an overturned boat believed to belong to Oakes, who has been the subject of a missing person investigation since March 30. Oakes was last seen boarding a blue boat on the eastern part of Cornwall Island around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29. At this time, police are unable to confirm any link between the man’s disappearance and the bodies that were found; however, The Globe and Mail is reporting that Oakes is described by those close to him as “a local human trafficker.”

Members of the Akwesasne Mohawk Police marine unit, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marine unit, Ontario Provincial Police air support, divers from the Sûreté du Québec, and the Hogansburg Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department searched up to eight kilometres of local waterways throughout the weekend. Clothing articles identified as belonging to Oakes have been located. The AMPS is now seeking the public’s assistance in locating Oakes, who was last seen wearing a black vest, snow pants, black face mask, and a black toque. 

As Akwesasne straddles the Quebec, Ontario, and New York State borders, it is widely known as a transit point for both human and contraband trafficking. An article published by La Presse reports that the AMPS have intercepted 48 individuals attempting to enter the United States since January. Migrants who cross are often met on the New York side of Akwesasne by drivers, who then transport them elsewhere within the State.

A media release issued on February 17 by the AMPS notes an increase in illegal entries into Akwesasne by way of land and waterways. The statement refers to human smuggling as a crime as well as a public safety concern, while reminding community members that migrants are human beings deserving of respect who should not be exploited for monetary gain. (SR)

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