Niagara Regional Police officers have been visiting pizzerias in the peninsula recently asking one important question: where did you get your cheese? It’s part of a larger internal investigation into cheese smuggling, allegedly by some members of their own force. Police sources say that charges are expected soon against a few officers who are alleged to have been involved in the movement of caseloads of cheese from the US to sell to Canadian pizzerias and restaurants.
The alleged scam involves jamming cases of "brick" cheese — used as a common pizza topping — into their vehicles to smuggle across the border. With US 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. The accused officers either face police act charges (internal discipline) for either discreditable conduct or neglect of duty or criminal code charges of breach of trust if any were found to have intentionally plotted to avoid customs and duties. The cheese-smuggling investigation stems from information gathered from a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) arrest in April of Niagara Regional Police constable Geoffrey Purdie in Buffalo on charges of conspiracy to smuggle more than half a million dollars in anabolic steroids and other drugs into Canada.
According to US court documents, a joint Border Enforcement Task Force has been using surveillance and at least one confidential informant in an ongoing probe into the steroid allegations of Purdie and others, including civilians. It is unknown which specific officers will face charges, or whether Const. Purdie himself is directly linked to the cheese allegations. The Niagara Regional Police Association won't discuss the allegations against the officers, but confirms a number of their members have been formally notified they are under internal investigation.
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