A Canadian trucking company owner admitted Wednesday to running one of the biggest cocaine-smuggling operations ever uncovered in Western New York.
Parminder Sidhu says his trucks, outfitted with false compartments, had made 11 separate trips into Canada by the time he was caught by Canadian and U.S. authorities.
All told, he estimates his haul at 3,800 pounds of cocaine, which prosecutors estimate had a street value of more than $90 million.
Sidhu admitted to running the cross-border smuggling ring in 2009 and 2010 as part of a plea deal that could send him to federal prison for life.
“You literally had millions of dollars in cocaine crossing the border,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said Wednesday.
Sidhu pleaded guilty to conspiracy to export cocaine and, as part of his agreement, acknowledged working with at least two others to transport cocaine from California, through Western New York and into Canada.
The three men were accused of using a warehouse on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga to conceal the drugs in the hidden compartments of Sidhu’s tractor-trailers before they entered Canada.
Investigators say the cocaine was concealed well enough to escape detection by drug-sniffing dogs and X-ray equipment at the border.
“There’s an old saying, ‘Crime knows no borders,’ ” Hochul said. “This case demonstrates that we in law enforcement can work together to protect the citizens of both countries.”
The other defendants in the case, Ravinder Arora and Michael Bagri, both from the Brampton, Ont., area, also have pleaded guilty and are reportedly cooperating with prosecutors.
From the time of Arora’s conviction in September of 2011– he was the first to take a plea – Homeland Security and Customs investigators have said the case involved one of the largest narcotics seizures in local history.
Border agents seized 213 pounds of coke during one stop in September of 2010 and another 57 pounds in May of 2011.
Sidhu now admits his cocaine-filled trucks made nine other trips across the border.