Canadian couple arrested as part of human smuggling investigation
Victor Omoruyi is in U.S. custody while his wife Michelle faces charges in Canada
As Victor Omoruyi was driving just south of the Canada-U.S. border in North Dakota last Friday evening, his wife was driving not far away on the Canadian side — in southeastern Saskatchewan near the North Portal border crossing.
The Regina pair were stopped by authorities at the two locations and taken into custody that night as part of an investigation into the smuggling of foreign nationals.
Victor Omoruyi had crossed the border heading south at 1:30 p.m. CST on Friday April 14.
Officials had been investigating him since before Christmas for frequent border crossings.
U.S. border agents flagged Canadian officials that a smuggling attempt may be in the works.
Later that evening, around 9 p.m., Michelle Omoruyi, 43, was pulled over by officers and arrested with nine people from West Africa in her vehicle. Sources tell CBC that the nine people included five adults and four children.
South of her, in North Dakota, U.S. officials were taking her husband and two other people into custody for immigration violations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said no charges have been laid against those three people yet.
The arrests were made after a four-month joint investigation in the Saskatchewan region.
In December, Canadian border agents flagged a man who had been frequently using the North Portal entry for more investigation and brought in RCMP investigators.
On Friday, U.S. border agents noted that the same man had crossed the border into North Dakota, and alerted the Canadians. That night, RCMP were flagged that a smuggling attempt may be in the works.
RCMP pulled over Michelle Omoruyi as she was driving in an isolated area north of the border. The nine asylum seekers were in the vehicle, according to police.
The five adults and four children weren't harmed and were all taken into custody by the Canada Border Services Agency. They have since been released. Information on their ages and nationality is not being released.
5 charged in December
This isn't the first time Canadians have been charged with human smuggling.
- Smuggled Brazilian refugee recounts boat journey to Cornwall, Ont.
- Human smuggling conspiracy nets charges against 5 people
Also in December, five people from Ontario and Quebec were charged after police said they brought people into the country illegally. The charges include conspiracy and aiding or abetting the illegal entry of one or more persons into Canada.
The foreign nationals were allegedly brought into the Cornwall, Ont., area from New York state.
One of the refugees told CBC reporters he paid $5,000 US to be smuggled into Canada. He was arrested shortly after getting off a boat in Ontario.
- An original version of this story said Victor Omoruyi crossed the border into the U.S. at 8:00 p.m. CST. In fact, he crossed earlier in the day at 1:30 p.m.Apr 21, 2017 8:35 AM CT
With files from Karen Pauls, Stefani Langenegger