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Canadian truck driver admits drug trafficking crime after U.S. Customs and Border Protection finds 211 pounds of cocaine in trailer load of bananas

GREAT FALLS – A Canadian truck driver admitted to a drug trafficking crime today after U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found 211 pounds of cocaine in a trailer load of load of bananas during an inspection as the driver was attempting to enter Canada, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

Gurpal Singh Gill, 39, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine as charged in a superseding information. Gill faces a mandatory minimum five years to 40 years in prison, a $5 million fine and at least four years of supervised release.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for Sept. 30. Gill was detained pending further proceedings.

In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that on Jan. 30, CBP officers at the Sweetgrass Port of Entry, in Toole County, were targeting commercial drivers destined for Canada from the United States. At about 8 p.m., officers observed a freightliner semi-truck with Alberta license plates traveling north on Interstate 15 at the Sweetgrass Port of Entry. Officers identified Gill as the driver and sole occupant of the semi-truck. Upon initial inspection, officers learned Gill was transporting a load of fresh bananas from California to Calgary. However, a missing rear seal on the truck’s trailer led to a secondary inspection. Officers observed seven unmarked boxes sitting on top of bananas in the back of the trailer. The unmarked boxes were a different color and size from the boxes of bananas. Officers opened the boxes and found a white powdery substance that appeared to be cocaine. An analysis by the Drug Enforcement Administration determined the packages contained about 211 pounds of cocaine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica A. Betley is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.