Three men, including one current and one former police officer from the Niagara Falls area, have been charged in connection with an international cheese-smuggling network.

The alleged scheme involved the purchase of cheese and other food products in the United States. The food was re-sold in Canada without anyone paying duty.

Authorities say more than $200,000 worth of food was purchased, and sold at a profit of more than $165,000.

As CBC News reported earlier this week, the alleged scam involves individuals jamming cases of "brick" cheese — used as a common pizza topping — into their vehicles to smuggle across the border and resell to Canadian pizzerias and restaurants. With U.S. cheese being as little as a third the price it is in Canada, drivers are making $1,000 to $2,000 a trip, according to numerous sources.

Canada Border Services Agency officials say anyone — officer or civilian — caught smuggling large shipments of cheese into Canada would be in violation of the Customs Act for failing to declare, and pay duties on, the controlled goods.

As well, CBSA says it would be a violation for failing to have proper permits and licences from both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Those charged include:

  • Scott Heron, 39, a Niagara Region Police Service constable. He was suspended from duty on June 26.
  • Casey Langelaan, 48,  a former member of the Niagara Regional Police Service. He was suspended from duty in June and is no longer employed by the force.
  • Bernie Pollino, 44.

All three of the charged men are residents of Fort Erie, Ont., police said. They all appeared in court on Thursday in St. Catharines, Ont., and were put over to Nov. 7.

Heron and Langelaan are charged with conspiracy to smuggle goods, breach of trust and four violations under the Customs Act.  Pollino faces  a charge of conspiracy to smuggle goods and four violations of the Customs Act.

CBC News was told earlier this month by two pizzeria owners in Niagara Region that Pollino — who is a U.S. citizen living in Fort Erie — had approached them offering to supply them with inexpensive U.S. cheese.

CBC approached Pollino at his Fort Erie home two weeks ago but he refused to discuss the alleged cheese smuggling ring or his friendships with Heron and Langelaan.