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Contraband
03/28/2014

Border security task force arrests 2 in cocaine smuggling scheme

SEATTLE – Two suspects arrested by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) made their initial appearances Thursday in Seattle federal court on charges they conspired to distribute more than 60 pounds of cocaine.

Harminder Singh Rai, 35, of Surrey, British Columbia, and Tuan Van Dang, 38, of San Diego, were arrested separately Wednesday following an investigation by the Blaine Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST Blaine).

According to court records, Rai, a known drug trafficker, was tailed by investigators after he entered the U.S. at the Blaine port of entry. Rai led HSI special agents to a Marysville motel, where he allegedly picked up a duffle bag loaded with cocaine from Dang. Rai was stopped at the border by CBP on his return to Canada. CBP officers found 24 vacuum sealed bags containing more than 60 pounds of cocaine hidden in various locations of his vehicle. Rai was taken into custody by CBP; HSI arrested Dang near the Bellingham airport.

If convicted, both suspects face minimum mandatory sentences of 10 years in federal prison. The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The HSI-led BEST is composed of full-time members from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Offices of Air and Marine, Field Operations and Border Patrol; the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Canada Border Services Agency; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. BEST Blaine combats transnational criminal organizations by identifying, investigating and eliminating vulnerabilities along one of the most diverse geographic areas along the northern border.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington is prosecuting the case.