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Trucker free after charges dropped in $20M US-Canada border drug bust

Driver’s lawyer welcomes dismissal of criminal case after ‘harrowing and unnecessary’ ordeal.

A truck prepares to enter the United States from Canada via the Peace Bridge border crossing near Buffalo, NY. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

A truck driver is expected to return to Canada on Thursday night after a judge dismissed criminal charges against him nearly two weeks after his arrest at the U.S. border on suspicion of attempting to smuggle $20 million worth of marijuana into the country.

U.S. Magistrate Jeremiah McCarthy dismissed the charges against Prabjot Nagra, 26, at the request of a federal prosecutor during a remote U.S. District Court hearing in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday.

While Assistant U.S. Attorney Misha Coulson did not explain why her office was dropping the case, Nagra’s lawyer welcomed the turn of events.

“Today’s dismissal of all charges against Mr. Nagra was a welcome vindication for him, and points to his innocence,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Alexander Anzalone wrote in an email to FreightWaves. 

“For a hard-working young man with no criminal history, the past two weeks in jail have been both harrowing and unnecessary, but today was a good day for Mr. Nagra,” Anzalone said.

Nagra’s case was dismissed without prejudice, which leaves open the possibility he could be charged again in the future.

Trucker maintained he didn’t know about marijuana in trailer

Nagra, a Canadian permanent resident, was arrested on June 26 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers said they found nearly 9,500 pounds of marijuana in the trailer he was hauling. 

Nagra maintained he wasn’t aware of the marijuana in the trailer. He told investigators that the trailer already had a seal on it when he picked it up near Toronto. 

Nagra’s carrier, Highway Secure Transport, also maintained that neither the company nor its driver had anything to do with the marijuana. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western New York did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment. Nagra’s case was dismissed without prejudice, which leaves open the possibility he could be charged again in the future. 

Nagra could have faced a minimum 10-year sentence on the two federal drug charges.

Largest drug bust at U.S.-Canada border in years

U.S. officials touted the marijuana seizure as the largest drug bust at the Canadian border in the past five years.

CBP officials have reported a surge of drug busts since the U.S.-Canada border closed for nonessential travel in March. Most of the cases have involved marijuana being hauled by transport trucks.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, though exporting remains illegal. Production, distribution and sale remain tightly controlled within Canada.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Nate Tabak.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]