DETROIT — A Toronto man was convicted Jan. 30 in Windsor, Ontario, on charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana for his role in a scheme to smuggle drugs from Canada into the U.S. The conviction is the first in Canada following a year-long Detroit Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) investigation.
Martin Kruja, 29, of Toronto, was convicted by Judge Lloyd Dean in the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor. Kruja was arrested in May 2012 after his fingerprints were found on a 6-pound package of marijuana concealed in the bumper of a vehicle that had been driven into Detroit from Windsor. Upon examination, a forensics expert with the Michigan State Police's Crime Lab in Northville, Mich., discovered Kruja's latent fingerprints on the package. A print was then transferred to the Ontario Provincial Police's Forensic Identification Services, where it was matched with Kruja's print already in a database run by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) National Repository of Criminal Records.
The case is the first Detroit BEST case where a latent print was lifted in the U.S. and subsequently transferred into Canada for identification. Fingerprints are among the strongest type of trace evidence in criminal investigations. The case also marks the first Canadian conviction for a Detroit BEST-led investigation. All past Detroit BEST investigations have resulted in convictions in the U.S.
Kruja was sentenced to 13 months full house arrest, a mandatory weapons ban and must submit to DNA bank registration.
"When we launched the Detroit BEST, this is exactly the type of cross-border cooperation we expected," said William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit, which leads the Detroit BEST. "This conviction is a significant benchmark in what has already been an extremely effective relationship with our partners here and in Canada. I commend all the officers and special agents involved in bringing this case to a successful resolution."
Special agents from HSI Toronto and the Toronto Police Service Drug Squad assisted in the investigation.
The Detroit BEST is composed of 17 member agencies including HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations and Office of the Border Patrol, Michigan National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, Michigan State Police, Detroit Police Department, Trenton Police Department, Troy Police Department, Canada Border Services Agency, Ontario Provincial Police, RCMP, Windsor Police Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations Division, St. Clair County Sheriff's Office, Port Huron Police Department, and County of Macomb Enforcement Team. The Detroit BEST is responsible for identifying, investigating and dismantling transnational criminal organizations and cross border criminal activities, which create vulnerabilities in public safety and national security on the shared northern border between the United States and Canada.