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Truckload of ‘towels’ nets 268 pounds of opium paste at U.S.-Canada border

The driver told police he was on his way to Vancouver, British Columbia with a load of towels, but investigators instead found packaged bricks of opium paste.
Credit: U.S. District Court
A rental truck stopped in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. contained 268 pounds of packaged opium paste.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A man is facing federal charges after he was stopped at the U.S.-Canada border with 268 pounds of opium paste loaded in the back of a rental truck.

The man told investigators in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. that he was transporting towels in the rental truck bearing an Arizona license plate. Agents were skeptical; a field test of the cargo identified it as opium.

Abdolnasser Mahmoudikanesbi has a federal court appearance scheduled this week in Marquette. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute opium, a 20-year felony.

Opium paste is extracted from the bulbs of poppy plants, a raw material for making heroin.

Mahmoudikanesbi, who told investigators he used to live in Iran, was arrested Saturday, Dec. 7, while attempting to enter the U.S. from Canada at Sault Ste. Marie, according to a criminal complaint filed this week.

According to the criminal complaint, Mahmoudikanesbi was driving a rental moving truck bearing an Arizona license plate when he was stopped about 5:42 p.m., court records show.

The vehicle’s rental agreement lists Mahmoudikanesbi as the renter, Homeland Security Investigations special agent Conor Dufrain wrote in the criminal complaint.  Mahmoudikanesbi had a driver’s license from Quebec.

He told U.S. Customs and Border Protection that he was on his way to Vancouver, British Columbia and did not intend to enter the U.S., “but that he was following the directions of his cell phone GPS application,’’ Dufrain wrote.

Mahmoudikanesbi told officers he was transporting towels, but an X-ray of the vehicle showed “dark anomalies in the cargo area inconsistent with towels,’’ Dufrain wrote.

Credit: U.S. District Court
Policed seized 268 pounds of opium paste packaged in bricks.

A search of the vehicle turned up 268 pounds of opium paste packaged in bricks.

“The substance was packaged and secreted in a manner consistent with narcotics smuggling,’’ Dufrain wrote in the criminal complaint. “The suspected opium paste appeared to share the same physical properties as prior federal seizures of opium paste.’’

When shown an image of the bricks found in the vehicle, “Mahmoudikanesbi said the picture was of opium, which he had previously used while living in Iran,’’ Dufrain wrote.

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