REVISED: Ont. border agents seize smuggled frozen chicken

Over 1,800 pounds of frozen chicken smuggled from the U.S. were among the contraband Canadian border agents and police in eastern Ontario snagged in recent seizures.

Ontario Provincial Police said last week that charges are pending in the poultry investigation, which is ongoing and so far has included a search warrant executed at a home at Cornwall, about 100 km southeast of Ottawa.

According to the Cornwall Regional Task Force (CRTF), the investigation began Feb. 4 when Canada Border Services AGency (CBSA) officers stopped a “suspect vehicle” returning from the U.S. and found an undisclosed, unrefrigerated and unstamped amount of chicken.

That finding led officers to the Cornwall home where another suspect was arrested and a “large quantity of chicken” seized.

CRTF members and CBSA officers had noted “strong rancid odors emanating from the vehicle where the chicken was located, thereby suggesting the chicken was not fit for human consumption.”

Most of the chicken had begun to thaw and was being stored in a non-refrigerated vehicle, police said. The vehicle seized at the Cornwall border crossing was registered in St-Eustache, Que., which police said suggests the chicken was “destined for the Quebec market, location unknown.”

The investigation so far indicates the chicken hadn’t been inspected in either the U.S. or Canada, and the suspects in this case “have been unable to produce any permits enabling them to have this chicken in their possession.”

“In this matter, the meat was not processed in a federal establishment. In the absence of proper inspection protocols, there are no guarantees on how the chicken was handled, including during its transportation,” Cst. Jean Juneau of the CRTF said in a release Feb. 25. “The distribution of uninspected meat could have been very serious ramifications.”

The 1,804 pounds (820 kg) of chicken were among items seized in sweeps between Jan. 8 and Feb. 10 by CBSA, CRTF and Cornwall Community Police Service (CCPS), the OPP reported. The CRTF is a joint body including OPP, RCMP, CBSA, CCPS and Ontario revenue ministry staff.

Also seized were 11 vehicles, including four pickup trucks and an Arctic Cat, a Pace cargo trailer, a Stealth trailer, two snowmobile utility tubs, 36,132 resealable bags and cartons each containing about 200 contraband cigarettes, $11,240 in Canadian and U.S. currency, eight grams of marijuana and an unspecified amount of oxycodone.

Ten people were arrested, police said, and so far five have been charged with possession of unstamped tobacco products. They include three men from Akwesasne, a Cornwall woman and a 16-year-old boy. Another Akewsasne man is charged with drug possession.

Police said they’re also looking for Louis Adams, 22, of Akwesasne and Lacey Arquette, 22, of Hogansburg, N.Y., on related outstanding arrest warrants.

CLARIFICATION FROM SOURCE, Feb. 25: An earlier version of this article quoted an OPP release from last week which incorrectly stated the boxes found containing the illicit chicken had already been marked “unfit for human consumption” by U.S. authorities.

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