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International human smuggling ring dismantled

June 6, 2024  By Royal Canadian Mounted Police


June 6, 2024, Cornwall, Ont. – Four people have been arrested, and arrest warrants have been issued for four further suspects involved in a large-scale human smuggling ring that funnelled illegal migrants into the United States in the area around Cornwall, Ont.

In July 2022, investigators from the Cornwall Regional Task Force (CRTF) identified and subsequently investigated a human smuggling group who were profiting from organizing and facilitating the illegal movement of migrants from Canada into the United States.

The CRTF is a joint task force made up of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Ontario Ministry of Finance which works closely with trusted US partners to combat crime on both sides of the border.

Between July 2022, and June 2023, this group allegedly smuggled hundreds of desperate migrants through communities along the St. Lawrence River across borders into the United States. Migrants were allegedly charged thousands of dollars by the smugglers. Dangerous night-time crossings even cost some migrants their lives.

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The RCMP has identified and charged the following:

  • Thesingarasan Rasiah, 51 years old, Montreal, Que.
  • Joel Portillo, 38 years old, Montreal, Que.
  • Justin Rourke, 43 years old, Saint Regis, Que.
  • Shawna Etienne, 47 years old, Kanesatake, Que.
  • Mary June Benedict, 48 years old, Akwesasne, Ont.
  • Cheyenne Lewis, 51 years old, Akwesasne, Que.
  • Tionna David, 21 years old, Saint Regis, Que.
  • Michael McCormick, 47 years old, Cornwall, Ont.

The RCMP would like to thank the following agencies for their varied but significant assistance throughout our investigation: OPP; CBSA; Ministry of Finance; AMPS; RCMP Eastern Region: Valleyfield Detachment and Montreal CIS; HSI; USBP; FAMG and FINTRAC. Their assistance was greatly appreciated and contributed to the success of this investigation.

“Many people from all over the world come to North America desperately seeking a better life. Transnational criminal networks are exploiting that desperation to profit from these men, women and families, with no concern for their welfare. While collaboration with our partners was key in bringing this group to justice, I would also like to remind the public to remain vigilant and inform us immediately if they see suspicious activity on our borders to help authorities put an end to this type of dangerous exploitation,” said Insp. Etienne Thauvette, Officer in charge of Cornwall Detachment, Central Region Federal Policing, Border Integrity Section.


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