(Photo of the Burger Barn posted on Jason Hill’s Facebook page in 2012 shows sign advertising imminent visit by Food Network show You Gotta Eat Here!)
APTN National News
The owner of a famous burger eatery in Six Nations is now considered a fugitive by Quebec provincial police in connection with an operation aimed at dismantling a suspected criminal network that allegedly spanned three continents and moved tobacco, cocaine and cash.
The Surete du Quebec (SQ) said Thursday its detectives were still searching for Jason Hill, 38, from Six Nations, an Iroquois community that sits about 40 km southwest of Hamilton, as part of the fallout from Operation Mygale.
The SQ alleged Hill is connected to a biker gang-linked criminal network that imported about two million kilograms of U.S.-grown tobacco since 2014 through the New York State-Ontario border crossings of Lansdown and Fort Eerie and the New York State-Quebec border crossing of Lacolle.
The SQ claimed the criminal network also imported cocaine from contact points in Mexico and moved cash back to the U.S., South America and Europe.
Hill and his wife Celeste Hill are owners of the Burger Barn, a well-known eatery that was featured in 2013 by the Food Network program, You Gotta Eat Here!
APTN contacted the Burger Barn Thursday but could not obtain a comment.
Now Hill is featured by the SQ in an organizational chart that identifies the Six Nations entrepreneur as the alleged buyer of tobacco from North Carolina farms.
The contraband tobacco, which Hill allegedly arranged for purchase, was processed in Six Nations and in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, which sits next to Montreal, and turned into cigarettes which were then sold on the black market for hefty margins, the SQ said.
The SQ believe Hill is currently outside Canada.
While the SQ tried to highlight the so-called “Aboriginal organized crime” angle of the operation, the agency provided little information to support the claim beyond evidence of tobacco smuggling.
Many Mohawks see the tobacco trade as a sovereignty issue and consider the movement and sale of tobacco as a right. The Harper government made the sale and manufacturing of unlicensed tobacco products a Criminal Code offence. It had previously been a tax enforcement issue.
No raids were carried out Wednesday in Six Nations or Kahnawake, despite an initial claim by the SQ.
Only four individuals ensnared in the operation have so far been linked to a First Nation community. Besides Hill, the SQ named Hunter Montour 45, Todd Beauchamp, 48, and Derek White, 45, who are all from Kahnawake, among the dozens arrested Wednesday.
White, a NASCAR driver who was featured in a news piece by APTN in 2012, has been under police surveillance since 2006, according to a previously obtained file from the RCMP’s Aboriginal Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
White was identified by police, but never charged, during the lead-up to Operation Cancun in 2008 which targeted a Mohawk-based marijuana smuggling operation in Kahnawake and Akwesasne, a Mohawk community which straddles the Canada-U.S. border and sits about 120 kilometres west of Montreal.
White told Kahnawake’s Eastern Door newspaper in an article published Thursday evening that his charges were all tobacco-related and that he turned himself in. He denied any links to the drug trade.
“All it has to do with is with tobacco, it has nothing to do with any of the other stuff they’re making up,” White told the Eastern Door. “I have nothing to do with drugs, or ISIS or terrorism…I have nothing to do with that shit, absolutely zero. They want their tax money, that’s all.”
White told the Eastern Door he posted $20,000 bail. He also told the Eastern Door he knows only one other person in the organizational chart released by the SQ, Paul Jean.
Jean was identified as the “right arm” to the organization’s head, Sylvain Ethier. Ethier owns a bar in Sainte-Therese, Que., called Prohibition.
White, who is listed as the number three on the organizational chart, said he knew Jean through the NASCAR circuit.
It’s unclear from the interview whether White is aware he’s been watched by the RCMP and the SQ for over a decade, as the Cancun files revealed.
Like Mygale, Operation Cancun also trumpeted the Mohawk angle.
However, an APTN investigation into the tendrils of Cancun revealed the main money players in the organization were not Mohawk. The alleged banker for that network, a still-fugitive businessman named Michael Chamas (who is also now known as Mikhael J.S. Mezrahi), spoke at a Conservative party fundraisers and was involved in an effort to buy a Quebec bank with former Mulroney cabinet minister John Crosbie and John Reynolds, the former chair of Harper’s 2004 leadership campaign.
One of the individuals currently wanted by the SQ as part of Mygale is Vrej Jartidian, 36, aka Kuzz Canada, is also a fugitive from American law enforcement.
A U.S. law enforcement source told APTN Thursday Jartidian is still wanted for his involvement in a Massachusetts-based criminal organization that smuggled marijuana from Canada into the U.S. and used the proceeds to import cocaine bought from the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.
Nicolas Anthis, one of Chamas’ business associates who was also under surveillance during Cancun, was convicted for a money laundering role with the Massachusetts organization which was headed by a Syrian named Safwan Madarati.
Jartidian was a close associate of Madarati, according to a U.S. law enforcement source.