Five arrested, four charged in human smuggling operation

The Cornwall port of entry during winter. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Several local police agencies have broken up a Cornwall-Massena human smuggling operation with the arrests of five people.

The arrests follow a seven month investigation, lead by the Canada Border Services Agency, which looking into foreign nationals across the border at various access points, including Cornwall, St. Regis, Que., and Massena, N.Y.

The investigation, called Project Oinertia, involved the CBSA, RCMP, the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service and the Massena Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST).

Search warrants were executed by the CBSA, RCMP and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service on Oct. 20, 2016 and the five suspects were arrested. Only four suspects were charged, police said.

Charged are:

  • Huai Guo Li, 59, of Carignan, Que. – three counts of conspiracy and one count of aiding or abetting the illegal entry to Canada of one or more persons.
  • Donald Benedict, 44, of Cornwall – two counts of conspiracy and one count of aiding or abetting the illegal entry to Canada of one or more persons.
  • Edwin Benedict, 44, of Cornwall Island – two counts of conspiracy
  • Jessica Martin-Conners, 43, Cornwall Island – one count of conspiracy

All four accused made their first court appearance in Cornwall on Dec. 6, 2016. CBSA spokesman Chris Kealey told Cornwall Newswatch their next court dates have not been scheduled.

The CBSA say more charges may be laid.

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