Canadian and U.S. authorities are looking for Khaophone Sychantha, an Ontario man they suspect is the ringleader of an international drug- and gun-smuggling operation.
Police on both sides of the border and Homeland Security in the U.S. are looking for Sychantha, 32, who also goes by the name Kao. He is said to have last lived in Lakeshore, Ont., a municipality just east of Windsor.
In October, Sychantha was charged in Michigan with the federal offence of distributing a controlled substance.
He never formally answered to the charge and a warrant for his arrest was issued.
“He’ll probably be underground and hiding out in the Canadian area or the Midwest,” said Marlon Miller, special agent for Homeland Security Investigations.
Sychantha is wanted by the Ontario Provincial Police and York Regional Police for breach of recognizance.
According to public records in Canada and the U.S., Sychantha is the suspected ringleader of a drug-smuggling organization alleged to have supplied “millions of ecstasy pills and hundreds of pounds of marijuana to several distributors,” according to a media release issued by U.S. Homeland Security.
Authorities allege Sychantha has supplied the drugs in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Mexico, Laos, Hong Kong and Thailand.
“He’s alleged to be a major player,” Miller said. “An arrest of this kind would make an impact in this area, definitely on our side and in Canada.”
Sychantha is also accused of directing people “to smuggle millions in bulk cash, guns, cocaine and heroin from the United States into Canada.”
Since 2002, Canadian and U.S. authorities have arrested and convicted more than 25 individuals who were allegedly directed by Sychantha.
Miller alleges Sychantha has “buffered himself and his criminal enterprise with low-level mules.”
Authorities said that Sychantha’s last known address is Lakeshore, but he’s also lived in Toronto, Windsor and LaSalle, just west of Windsor.
Sychantha is said to be a dual citizen of Canada and Laos.
“We suspect he has assets in Laos,” Miller said. “There’s a possibility he could be [in Laos].”
Miller is hoping residents in Michigan and Ontario can help them find Sychantha.
“Using the public is a force multiplier. We’ve seen evidence of the public doing civil duty and helping law enforcement and it works out well,” Miller said.
However, Miller warned against approaching Sychantha.
“Anyone dealing in the drug trade, you can assume, is a danger to the public. But we can’t confirm that,” Miller said. “Anyone dealing with moving large amounts of money or moving narcotics, there’s some risk and some danger in that.”
Windsor police are part of the international border enforcement security task force known as BEST and are co-operating in trying to locate Sychantha.
Windsor police spokesman Sgt. Matthew D'Asti said catching Sychantha would be a boost for Windsor's drugs and guns task force.
"We know this individual is dealing in ecstasy and other narcotics and we want to keep our citizens safe," said D'Asti. "We want to keep these items out of the reach of our young people and everybody in our community."