A US man who was following wrong GPS coordinates ended up being arrested by Canadian border officers after he accidentally entered the country with a large amount of cannabis and cash.
Andrew Lee Toppenberg, 60, of Tustin, California, was driving a car loaded with 181 kg of cannabis and $602,985 US when he took a wrong turn and ended up in the border line up at the Rainbow Bridge port of entry in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on May 2.
He had no passport and was referred for a secondary examination. During that inspection, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers discovered the cannabis and the money hidden in various places in the car.
The case was then turned over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who charged him with drug and currency offences. He is currently in custody awaiting a bail hearing.
“I have done illegal things for money, and I am sorry and ashamed … I have taken shortcuts and agreed to do illegal things to support my family financially,” Toppenberg said in court.
His case is one of several recent incidents of cannabis smuggling across the US-Canada border, which has seen a surge in activity amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the high demand and price for cannabis in the US market.
In March, a Canadian man who was found unconscious and tethered to 185lb (84kg) of marijuana in the Detroit River was sentenced to about six years in a US prison for his role in a smuggling scheme that involved using Seabobs, a watercraft that can propel people underwater.
Glen Mousseau, 49, of Windsor, Ontario, had previously confessed to being a smuggler who served various criminal groups and agreed to help agents in a methamphetamine bust, but he fled back to Canada. He was arrested after border agents spotted a suspicious boat and found him floating in the river with bundles of cannabis.
“He was a mule. That’s all his participation was. He was the one who was thrown into the water. He almost died,” his defense attorney Victor Mansour said.
US border officials also reported that more than 9,000 pounds (4,082 kg) of marijuana were seized from commercial trucks in Michigan since March 2020.
“We’re seeing an increase in all types of drugs coming across our border,” said Kris Grogan, spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection.
Cannabis is legal in Canada for adults who are 18 years or older (depending on the province or territory), but it is a serious criminal offence to bring it across the border. If discovered, it may be confiscated by a CBSA officer. As of March 29, 2021, if travellers don’t declare it or give inaccurate information in their declaration, they may also face a monetary penalty ranging from $200 to $2,000.
“While cannabis may be legal in Canada, it is a serious criminal offence to bring it across the border,” the CBSA website warns.
– Lost American arrested at Canadian border with 181 kg of cannabis and over half a million in cash, StratCann, June 5, 2023
– Smuggler’s ordeal ends after a cross-border chase with an underwater vehicle and 185lb of marijuana, The Guardian, March 3, 2021
– Border officials stunned by surge of marijuana smuggling at northern border, Washington Examiner, November 25, 2020
– GPS leads an American driver to jail, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, May 2, 2023