N.D. sheriff recalls department's role in Omoruyi U.S.-Sask. smuggling bust

Local law enforcement in North Dakota who were involved in the arrest of Victor Omoruyi in the U.S. say there have been other attempts to cross the border into Canada.

Grohs' deputies had assisted U.S. border patrol in surveillance of Victor Omoruyi as he travelled to Minot

Michelle Omoruyi has been charged with human smuggling. Her husband Victor Omoruyi is in custody in the U.S. in connection with the same investigation. He has not been charged. (Facebook)

A U.S. county sheriff says efforts to investigate human smuggling at the Canada-U.S. border were months in the making and involved multiple levels of law enforcement.

Jeremy Grohs, sheriff of Burke County based out of Bowbells, N.D., said U.S. border patrol tipped his department off about a potential suspect involved in illegal border crossings earlier this year.

Authorities made multiple arrests earlier in the month, which saw Regina resident Michelle Omoruyi arrested and charged with human smuggling after she was stopped while driving a vehicle with nine Nigerian nationals near the U.S. border.

American authorities also arrested Omoruyi's husband, Victor, and two others. No charges have yet been laid.

Grohs said deputies had taken positions to keep an eye on the suspect vehicle, which he said was a white Ford Explorer, while U.S. border patrol tailed the vehicle to Minot.

Grohs said Victor Omoruyi told border officials he was going to Minot, N.D. to visit friends and family. Grohs said his department holed up near the border and waited for word from border patrol.

He estimates it was approximately seven hours later when border patrol said the same vehicle was leaving Minot with "numerous individuals," a change from earlier in the day. 

The vehicle travelled approximately four kilometres west of the Portal border crossing when the driver cut all lights to the vehicle, according to Grohs.

"It was believed that there may have been a possible event that took place," Grohs said. 

Some time later, Grohs said emergency lights lit up on the Canadian side of the border and his deputies recalled seeing the Explorer travel south of Northgate crossing, where it was later stopped by U.S. border patrol. 

Grohs was unable to comment on the potential link between the Omoruyi case and prior crossings. He noted the Portal crossing is very busy.

Though, he did say an escalated number of illegal crossings in the Pembina and Portal areas contributed to the involvement of his department. 

"We did have one event where we were able to ultimately locate five individuals. Two adults and three juveniles in January," Grohs said. 

The investigation is ongoing.

With files from Karen Pauls