(Police outside the Sweet Dreams strip club in Dundee, Que. Facebook)
By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Mohawk police officers uncovered a cache of weapons Wednesday inside the home of an Akwesasne man whose strip club was allegedly used to store North Carolina-grown raw tobacco after it was smuggled into Canada by an Italian Mafia-run network, APTN National News has learned.
A Surete du Quebec-led police operation unfolded across the Montreal region and in the border-straddling community of Akwesasne Wednesday morning aimed at dismantling an alleged tobacco smuggling network that moved raw tobacco across the Canada-US border to the Mohawk community of Kahnawake near Montreal for cigarette manufacturing.
Akwesasne Mohawk Police officers, acting on Surete du Quebec (SQ) warrants, arrested Anthony David Jr., 49, his wife Tracy-Ann David-Dogget, 47, David’s daughter Fallon David, 31, and son-in-law Christopher Thompson, 26, in Akwesasne. When the Mohawk police searched Anthony David’s home in St. Regis Village, Akwesasne, they uncovered a number of weapons.
The suspicion of weapons and drugs moving through Akwesasne drew the Akwesasne Mohawk Police into the SQ investigation, said the force’s Chief Jerry Swamp.
“The investigation started as a tobacco file. The Akwesasne police became involved when weapons and drugs were identified going through the community,” said Swamp.
David is expected to face additional weapons charges. He is already facing fraud, conspiracy and organized crime charges.
David and his three family members were all transported by the Akwesasne police across the St. Lawrence River by boat to Cornwall, Ont., from where they were then transported to Montreal. St. Regis Village, which is on the south shore of the river, is part of the Akwesasne reserve in Canada, but it is only accessible by road through the U.S.
David also operates an unlicensed cigarette factory on the U.S. side of Akwesasne that primarily manufactures unmarked “rollies,” which are cigarettes sold in plastic bags.
David is also an owner of the Sweet Dreams strip club in Dundee, Que., where the SQ allege some of the tobacco was stored before it was taken to Kahnawake. The strip club was also raided Wednesday, said Sgt. Joyce Kemp.
The 18 month-long investigation that led to the arrests of about 30 people, including two from Kahnawake and a total of five from Akwesasne, began on a tip from U.S. authorities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been tracking tractor trailer shipments of tobacco from North Carolina heading north.
The SQ said Wednesday that the operation, dubbed Project Lycose, was one of the largest ever in North America targeting the underground tobacco trade.
The Quebec force claimed the network’s smuggling defrauded the government tax coffers of about $30 million. About 400 officers participated in the raids which included the involvement of the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, the Akwesasne Mohawk Police, several municipal police forces and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The SQ said the smuggling network was allegedly headed by a Mafia-linked businessman named Nicola Valvano, from Saint- Leonard, Que. Montreal Mafia members would buy the unprocessed tobacco from North Carolina and then transport it to Canada hidden in transport trucks carrying cedar mulch. The trucks, registered under false companies, would then take the tobacco to locations near Montreal and remain there for between 24 to 72 hours before rolling to Kahnawake where the tobacco would be used by local cigarette factories.
The Mafia-linked members allegedly split the profits of the operation 60-40 with their Mohawk partners, said Kemp.
The SQ also arrested two Mohawk men from Kahnawake Wednesday, Devery Bauersfeld, 52, and Kanentiio Ross, 36. The SQ were searching for another man, Michael Rosetti, 50, who is not Mohawk but is married to a Mohawk woman from Kahnawake.
The Kahnawake Peacekeepers police force said it would not execute any arrest warrants related to tobacco investigations.
A Kahnawake Mohawk Council source told APTN National News that the arrested men were well known in the community and had been involved in the cigarette trade for “many years.” The source said they are viewed as family men with children involved in sports like hockey in the community.
“How far are they really linked into organized crime?” said the source. “Or are they only related through tobacco but are being roped into this whole process? They are just normal people in the community.”
According to diagram of the organization provided by the SQ, the Kahnawake men were identified as “Purchasers in Kahnawake.”
The SQ said it seized about 40,000 kilograms of tobacco which is worth about $7 million on the black market and would have resulted in a $10 million tax loss if turned into cigarettes. Police also seized $45,000 in cash and 1,300 marijuana plants.