HOULTON, Maine — Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said earlier this week that successful busts in Maine last year led to the seizure of more than 400 pounds of marijuana and nearly $300,000 in currency.
The northeast branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently released figures from fiscal year 2012 to highlight some of their most successful cases and to reflect on their partnerships with other law enforcement agencies.
Michelle Benson-Fuller, spokesperson with Customs and Border Protection, said that total seizures by the Houlton Air Branch, which serves the entire state, amounted to $298,585 in cash, 436 pounds of marijuana, 0.2 pounds of methamphetamine, and one vehicle. Six people in all were arrested.
The branch supports six Border Patrol stations and the Houlton U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. Its agents monitor more than 600 miles of land and river border as well as more than 200 miles of North Atlantic coast. Approximately 70 percent of the area of responsibility is comprised of heavily forested, mountainous wilderness.
In one incident the agency highlighted, two Houlton Border Patrol agents seized $89,808 in U.S. currency, $10,440 in Western Union traveler’s checks and $200 in Canadian currency from two men from Canada. According to Benson-Fuller, various law enforcement agencies then worked together to conduct the investigation, including numerous hours of interviews and sharing of information.
The probe revealed a telephone fraud scheme that preyed on the elderly. The scam involved the subjects advising the elderly of a grandchild or other relative desperately in need of money, and instructing them to wire funds. The victims were subsequently bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the summer of 2012, the subjects were sentenced to two years in prison each, and ordered to pay $116,117 in restitution.
The $100,448 initially seized by Border Patrol agents was returned to 18 of the victims.