Quebec trucking VP gets 10 years in U.S. prison for running cocaine smuggling ring

‘To make money, (the defendant) used his background in the transport industry to exploit perceived weaknesses in law enforcement oversight,’ the U.S. prosecutor said

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The vice-president of a Quebec trucking firm has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in the United States for running a cross-border cocaine smuggling enterprise using a company truck with a custom-built hidden compartment.

Guillaume Latour-Laitre, 27, of Prévost, Quebec, in the Laurentians, pleaded guilty to organizing a smuggling run “conservatively worth $5.8-million USD,” that was made by a hired truck driver. He was sentenced Thursday in Utica, N.Y.

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“The defendant is a drug smuggler parading as a transport executive,” Assistant United States Attorney Douglas Collyer told court.

“The defendant was not supporting a drug habit by participating in smuggling of this scale; he was financially motivated. To make money, he used his background in the transport industry to exploit perceived weaknesses in law enforcement oversight.

“This case involved the smuggling of significant amounts of cocaine, consistent with a large-scale, international criminal organization.

Court heard he had engaged in additional trafficking activity but was not charged for it.

“Attesting to his level of supervision,” Collyer told court, Latour-Laitre “travelled from Canada to the United States to personally oversee each time cocaine was loaded onto his truck, until (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) disallowed his entry into the United States.”

The defendant is a drug smuggler parading as a transport executive

Latour-Laitre, 27, was extradited from Quebec and arrested in New York on Dec. 15, 2022, at the Canada-U.S. border, two years after he was declared a wanted man in the United States.

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In May, he changed his plea to guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, under a plea agreement.

The Montreal-born Latour-Laitre admitted he worked with an unnamed drug trafficking organization from November 2019 to Dec. 7, 2019, that was smuggling cocaine from the United States into Canada for distribution.

He was vice-president of Tram-Sport, a commercial trucking firm in Quebec, according to his guilty plea filed in court.

His role was to oversee the transport of the cocaine across the border hidden on the company-owned tractor-trailer transport truck.

Latour-Laitre admitted he hired a new truck driver and not long afterwards recruited him into the smuggling scheme, offering to pay him an extra $250 per kilo of cocaine he moved on top of his regular wage.

On Dec. 5, 2019, the driver took a load of furniture in the company’s Quebec-registered truck over the Thousand Islands Bridge, across the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque, Ont., and crossing into the United States at Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

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He dropped off the furniture in Tremont, Pennsylvania, then, under Latour-Laitre’s direction, stopped to collect 142 bricks of cocaine. They were loaded into a secret compartment custom made in the trailer.

The driver then headed home, attempting to cross into Canada at the Derby Line crossing in Vermont.

He said his truck was empty, but an inspection found the cocaine.

It wasn’t a random search.

When he drove the company’s truck into the U.S. filled only with legitimate cargo, a detector dog had found the custom-made hiding space because of a residual odor of narcotics, according to documents filed in court in that case. But it was empty.

He was allowed to carry on his journey but when he tried to cross back into Canada, his truck was again inspected by a U.S. Border Patrol detector dog, and the same trap compartment was flagged.

This time it was stuffed with cocaine bricks.

The driver was charged and pleaded guilty in 2020 to distribution of cocaine and was sentenced to six years. He cooperated with the investigation, according to court documents, pointing the finger at Latour-Laitre.

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Documents allege the driver made two previous smuggling trips across the border, one of 200 kilos and the other of 80 kilos, based on what he was paid, which he said was loaded onto his truck at a scrap yard.

Latour-Laitre faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 10 years.

His lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, asked Judge David Hurd to impose the minimum sentence on his client.

Latour-Laitre has no previous criminal record and is otherwise of good character, Gottlieb told court. His client pleaded guilty quickly and accepts responsibility for his crime and is flat broke.

Latour-Laitre’s child was born two months before his extradition. Letters of support from friends and family were entered in court. One sibling, court heard, works in law enforcement.

The government agreed not to pursue additional federal charges from the cocaine plot against him.

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