Border patrol seizes $100,000 worth of cannabis in upstate New York

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Border Patrol agents and police officers seized approximately 50 pounds of cannabis in upstate New York last week in a traffic stop near the Canadian border. Officials estimated the value of the pot at more than $100,000, according to a press release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Agents assigned to the Massena Border Patrol Station were on duty in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 3 when they pulled over a red pickup truck in the parking lot of a hotel in Hogansburg, New York. After requesting assistance from other nearby law enforcement agencies, the Border Patrol agents were joined by officers from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police (SRMTP) and the New York State Police (NYSP).

After a canine unit with the SRMTP alerted to the vehicle, the officers discovered the cannabis hidden in luggage which was stowed in the extended cab of the pickup truck. The law enforcement officers then seized the pot and arrested the driver and lone occupant of the vehicle, Kyle Hemings, age 50, of Central Square, New York. After being taken into custody, Hemings was transported to Massena Border Patrol Station for initial processing by agents. The Border Patrol then transferred custody of Hemings and the confiscated marijuana to troopers with the NYSP. Hemings faces first-degree felony charges for criminal possession of marijuana in the case.

Swanton Sector Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia credited the cooperation of the area’s law enforcement agencies for the seizure of the cannabis.

“The outstanding law enforcement partnerships in upstate New York are critical to border security,” Garcia said.  “I would like to thank the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police and the New York State Police for working with us to interdict this marijuana smuggling event.”

Three Busts in Three Weeks

Last week’s bust was the third recent seizure of large amounts of cannabis by agents with the Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector, which is responsible for securing the land border between ports of entry in Vermont, New Hampshire, and northeastern New York.

On Saturday, March 23 Border Patrol agents followed a pickup that they considered suspicious from the highway to a gas station in Ogdensburg, New York. When they approached the vehicle to speak to the driver, they noticed a large duffle bag in the back of the vehicle. When the agents asked the driver, Damian D. Cookhorne, 36, about the bag he said that he did not know it was there. A Border Patrol canine team indicated that drugs were in the pickup and agents discovered 33 pounds of cannabis in the duffel bag. Cookhorne was arrested and has been charged with felony criminal possession of marijuana.

“This is the second significant seizure of marijuana made by Ogdensburg Border Patrol agents over the last four days,” said Swanton Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent William Maddocks. “These two events demonstrate the need to stay vigilant to stop illegal activity near our border.”

Just days before Cookhorne’s arrest, Ashlyn M. Lazare-Cole, 26, was arrested on March 21 after she was pulled over by agents while she was driving near Gouverneur, New York. Canine units also alerted to her vehicle, and agents discovered 58 pounds of cannabis hidden in garbage bags and a dog food bag that were in the trunk of the woman’s car. Felony criminal possession of marijuana charges have also been filed against Lazare-Cole.

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