The Niagra Regional Police Service is investigating its own officers on suspicion of smuggling cheap US cheese across the border into Canada.
The officers, as well as some civilians, were originally under suspicion of smuggling performance-enhancing drugs internationally. However, what the local police found instead was caseloads of cheese, namely “brick” mozzarella cheese. The illegal US cheese was being sold to restaurants in the area, namely pizzerias.
The restaurants that use the most cheese say that the dairy product is their second-largest expense, after labor. Using the smuggled American cheese, rather than buying pricier Canadian cheese, saved them huge amounts of money.
The police investigations revealed that there was “significant financial gain” to be had in the smuggling operation – up to $200,000 worth of cheese had been brought from the US to Canada, which would have made the smugglers $165,000 in profit.
Mario Sebastiano, owner of Super Mario’s pizza in Port Colborne, is one of the restaurateurs who resisted the cheaper smuggled cheese. He said he was approached about two years ago by a man who came into his restaurant, offering to sell him bricks of mozzarella. Sebastiano said he tried a sample of the cheese, but he thought it was inferior to the cheese he purchases in Canada. He pays $10.85 a kilo for cheese, “so it is expensive,” compared to $10.25 in the US for a larger brick.
The Niagra Regional Police Association is not releasing information about the probe, but says it has notified the officers involved that they are under internal investigation. A few names have been released – civilians Casey Langelaan and Bernie Pollino, who were charged with conspiracy to smuggle goods and breach of trust, and Constable Scott Heron was charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offense, breach of trust, and customs code offenses.
The criminal investigation originally started when Constable Geoffrey Purdie was arrested by the Department of Homeland Security for smuggling nearly $500,000 worth of anabolic steroids, and some other drugs, into Canada.
If you have been charged with criminal activity, you will need a criminal defense lawyer. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help, both with criminal charges in South Carolina, as well as nationally. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation. 803.252.4800.