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Nelson pleads guilty

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Seven months after his arrest, Kanesata’kehró:non Jason Nelson pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute 166 kilograms of cocaine.

On July 21, the United States attorney for the Northern District of New York and defendant Nelson entered a plea agreement via Skype video due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing measures.

Nelson, who was charged in federal court in Plattsburgh for possession with conspiring to distribute drugs, is now awaiting his sentencing hearing set for November 18. He is potentially facing in between 10 years of imprisonment, to a maximal penalty, which could result in a life imprisonment sentence. Nelson was arrested on December 7, 2019, early in the morning at the US border with a large amount of drugs inside his truck. As reported in the plea agreement, he later admitted that he had been working for a drug organization since November 2019 that trafficked cocaine from the United States to Canada.

According to the legal document, his role was to transport and smuggle the drug with a tractor-trailer registered in Quebec. Once in Canada, he would leave the trailer for another trafficker to pick it up.

While it was reported that Mohawk Council grand chief Serge Otsi Simon believed his community member had been set up, the plea agreement showed demonstrated that Nelson knew what he was doing.

Nelson was first noticed by authorities at the Alexandria Bay border crossing at New York, two days prior to his arrest. According to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint issued on December 9, 2019, his blue tractor-trailer was intercepted coming into the United States with a white trailer.

During the regular inspection, a certified-narcotic detection dog alerted the presence of a drug odour coming from the front wall of Nelson’s trailer. United States Customs and Borders Protection officers (CBPO) searched the trailer only to discover an empty, homemade compartment in the front section.

“It is common for such traffickers to build hidden compartments, like the compartment found in Nelson’s trailer, in their vehicles, and to conceal illegal controlled substances in these compartments, to prevent customs officials from discovering the contraband during border inspections,” said Anthony Watson, the special agent with the US Department of Homeland Security who wrote the affidavit.

The officers also took note that at the time, Nelson claimed that his truck was completely empty while they found some furniture destined for Pennsylvania. When he tried to return with his truck back to Canada, he was once again intercepted a little before 2 a.m., but this time at Vermont’s Derby Line.

Watson, who was an inspector at the US/Canada land border from 1990 to 1999, stated that it is also very common for narcotic traffickers to use different borders coming in and out of the United States “in order to avoid detection by customs officials.”

CBPO found approximately 142 brick-shaped packages in the custom-made compartment of Nelson’s trailer, which later tested positive for cocaine.


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