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About 350,000 Ecstasy tablets with a street value of more than $8 million were seized Monday -- the largest drug bust in North Country history.
About 16 kilos of cocaine were seized Tuesday in a related bust.
Law-enforcement officials announced Thursday that Sylvain Suprenant, 37, of Valleyfield, Quebec, and Jean Dionne Jr., 34, of Chrysistome, Quebec, were arrested in connection with the drug seizures.
Suprenant has been charged with possessing with intent to distribute "3, 4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine," also known as Ecstasy.
Dionne has been charged with attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
Grant Jaquith, the supervisor in charge of the U.S. Attorney's Narcotics Division, described how the arrests came about.
On Monday, a black pickup truck crossed the U.S.-Canadian border without incident at one of the ports of entry.
The truck, driven by Suprenant, then stopped near Mooers, where it was met by a man on an all-terrain vehicle, Jaquith said.
The driver of the ATV allegedly loaded two duffel bags into the back of the truck and left.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent saw that and called for additional agents, who stopped the truck about a half mile from the original meeting spot.
One "agent," a 3-year-old German shepherd named Zora from the Canine Unit, alerted agents that she had caught the scent of something in the duffel bags in the back of the truck, Jaquith said.
Upon investigating, he said, the agents discovered 350 heat-sealed bags containing about 1,000 Ecstasy tablets each, with a total net weight of about 118.9 kilograms.
Suprenant had allegedly been paid to take the pills to New York City for distribution.
KEEPING THE MEETING
On Tuesday, a source working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was given 16 kilograms of cocaine to deliver to an individual near the Canadian border, Jaquith said.
After substituting a non-controlled substance for the cocaine seized earlier and allowing the meeting to take place, the DEA and U.S. Border Patrol allegedly arrested Dionne in Cannons Corners near Mooers Forks.
Jaquith said Dionne arrived on an ATV with the intent to pick up the cocaine and take it to Canada for distribution.
DEA Resident Agent in Charge James Farnsworth said that, although additional charges have not been levied, he believes Dionne transported the Ecstasy on Monday, as well.
The DEA, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Adirondack Drug Task Force, which includes the Plattsburgh City Police Department, the Clinton County Sheriff's Department, the New York State Police and the Clinton County District Attorney's Office, were all involved in the investigation that produced the two drug seizures.
"Interstate 87 has always been known as a network from Montreal to New York City. That's gone on for decades," Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said.
"I think there's always an inherent issue there that, to have people carrying this volume of drugs and money that goes along with this, there are added risks that are out there in the community."
Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said there are always risks when attempting to apprehend drugs and drug dealers.
"When people are delivering drugs, there's always the chance of drug dealers ripping off drug dealers.
"There's always the case of when officers go to make the bust, the bust would not go as well planned as we would like it to go," he said.
"A lot of thought goes into this. A lot of operational plans are set up. The DEA come in and sit down with all of their law-enforcement agencies and says, what's the best way for us to approach this?"
Law-enforcement officials said they do not have any solid leads as to which drug cartels are involved with moving and distributing Ecstasy and cocaine between Canada and the United States. However, they did say it is a very large organization and that the investigation is continuing.
"The prosecution of this magnitude ... has got the U.S. Attorney's Office attention all the way down to the local level," said Clinton County District Attorney Richard Cantwell.
"Any time you can eliminate a source supplier, that makes our streets that much safer, and it's also making our country safer."
Jaquith, who is also the supervisory assistant to the U.S. attorney for the northern district of New York, said the continued results of the investigation demonstrate the effective collaboration between federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.
"The United States attorney ... asked me to convey that in the northern district of New York, border security is a top priority," Jaquith said.
"The Ecstasy seizure here is a tribute to the vigilance of the United States Border Patrol."
I'd like to know what the pills were pressed with, symbol-wise.
-------------------- Acid doesn't give you truths; it builds machines that push the envelope of perception. Whatever revelations came to me then have dissolved like skywriting. All I really know is that those few years saddled me with a faith in the redemptive potential of the imagination which, however flat, stale and unprofitable the world seems to me now, I cannot for the life of me shake.