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Contraband
03/25/2008

Canadian indicted on drug and weapon charges

Suspect was taken into federal custody aboard cruise ship in Miami

SEATTLE - A federal grand jury indicted a Canadian man last week for conspiracy to export cocaine, conspiracy to import marijuana, and possession of a firearm as part of a drug trafficking crime following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Charles Lai, 42, of Vancouver, British Columbia, was arrested over the weekend in Miami after the cruise ship he was vacationing on docked there.

The investigation of Lai is linked to a joint U.S. - Canadian investigation that led to the seizure of about 225 kilograms of cocaine in October 2007. Lai is the suspected leader of a drug ring that over the past five years has arranged for trans-border shipments of cocaine, marijuana, and guns.

"Importing illegal drugs into the United States is a serious crime with significant penalties," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Seattle.  "ICE will continue to work closely with our Canadian law enforcement partners to pursue individuals who violate drug trafficking laws."

Lai will be arraigned in the Western District of Washington at a later date.  Conspiracy to export cocaine is punishable by 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine.  Conspiracy to import marijuana is punishable by five to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine.  Possession of a firearm as part of a drug trafficking crime is punishable by an additional consecutive five-year sentence on top of any underlying sentence and a $250,000 fine.