The U.S.-Canada border is the last place you want to wind up in the event that you are driving an illegal shipment of nearly 400 pounds of pot and over half a million dollars.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) released a press release on June 5, announcing that an American driver was arrested after attempting to cross the border with just under 400 pounds of cannabis and over $602,985 in his vehicle, at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls, Canada.
Police say the man was trying to follow GPS coordinates, but ended up accidentally driving into the U.S.-Canadian port of entry, Insauga reports.
Andrew Lee Toppenberg, 60, of Tustin, California was driving a large cannabis shipment on May 2. Police say he was following GPS coordinates that were entered incorrectly, causing him to take a wrong turn and he ended up at the border at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Rainbow Bridge port of entry in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Since Toppenberg had no passport, he was sent for the dreaded secondary examination. During the inspection, the CBSA officers discovered a huge amount of pot, valued at between C$362,000 and C$724,000, and over $600,000 USD dollars (C$816,167). It doesn’t look good for the driver. The CBSA officers promptly arrested the driver and seized the cash and cannabis. His case was then turned over to the RCMP Niagara on the Lake Federal Policing Border Integrity Team (RCMP BI).
“The safety and security of Canadians is our government’s top priority,” said The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety. This seizure demonstrates the crucial role that the CBSA and the RCMP play in stopping illicit contraband from entering our communities. Outstanding work by both agencies.”
Specifically, Toppenberg is charged with possession of cannabis for the purpose of distribution contrary to s.9(2) of the Cannabis Act; importing 181 kg (399 lbs) of cannabis, contrary to s.11(1) of the Cannabis Act; and possession of proceeds of property over five thousand dollars knowing that all or part of the proceeds of property was obtained by a crime in the United States of America contrary to s.354(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.
The CBSA and RCMP applauded the seizure.
“The CBSA and the RCMP continue to get positive results from our collaboration to protect Canada’s borders,” said Superintendent Rae Bolsterli, RCMP O Division, OIC Border Integrity. This seizure of cash and contraband is one more example of how our combined services are keeping Ontario citizens safe from criminal activities.”
“The CBSA is extremely proud of the diligence shown by our officers,” Jeff Walters, Director, Niagara District Operations, Canada Border Services Agency. “Their hard work has a profound impact on continually ensuring public safety at our borders.”
If Toppenberg was busted in the U.S. punishments for this amount, the minimum time would be no less than five years in prison. If death or serious bodily injury was a factor, no less than 20 years behind bars.
Toppenberg appeared before a Justice on May 5, 2023 at the Robert S.K Welch Court in St. Catharines, Ontario and was remanded in custody, where he remains. His next court date has not been scheduled. To learn more about the latest contraband statistics, visit Canada Border Services Agency seizures.