The Gleaner

RCMP cracks international human smuggling ring

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested four individuals and issued warrants for four additional suspects allegedly involved in a large-scale human smuggling ring that has been funnelling migrants into the United States from the area around Cornwall, Ontario.

In a June 6 press release, the RCMP confirmed the Cornwall Regional Task Force (CRTF) has been investigating a human smuggling group that was organizing and facilitating the illegal movement of individuals from Canada into the United States since July 2022.

The CRTF is a joint task force made up of the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Ontario Ministry of Finance which works closely with U.S. partners to fight criminal activity on both sides of the border.

The task force alleges that between July 2022 and June 2023, the group smuggled hundreds of migrants across the border through communities along the St. Lawrence River. Migrants were allegedly charged thousands of dollars by the smugglers for passage into the United States. The RCMP confirms that these dangerous night-time crossings have cost some migrants their lives.

The RCMP has identified and charged eight individuals, including Thesingarasan Rasiah, 51, and Joel Portillo, 38, of Montreal; Justin Rourke, 43, and Tionna David, 21, from Saint Regis; as well as Cheyenne Lewis, 51, from Akwesasne (Quebec); Mary June Benedict, 48, of Akwesasne (Ontario); Shawna Etienne, 47, of Kanesatake; and Michael McCormick, 47, of Cornwall.

“Many people from all over the world come to North America desperately seeking a better life. Transnational criminal networks are exploiting that desperation to profit from these men, women, and families, with no concern for their welfare,” said Inspector Etienne Thauvette, the officer in charge of the RCMP Cornwall Detachment, Central Region Federal Policing, Border Integrity Section.

“While collaboration with our partners was key in bringing this group to justice, I would also like to remind the public to remain vigilant and inform us immediately if they see suspicious activity on our borders, to help authorities put an end to this type of dangerous exploitation,” he added. (SR)

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