Canadian man arrested by U.S. in alleged human smuggling; wife also charged

By The Canadian Press
April 21, 2017 - 11:45am

REGINA — The husband of a Canadian woman charged with human smuggling is one of three people authorities in the United States have arrested as part of the investigation.

Court documents signed by border agents say Victor Omoruyi, a Canadian citizen, was arrested April 14 after an SUV was stopped south of the North Dakota-Saskatchewan border.

The documents say Omoruyi entered the U.S. that afternoon and told border officers he was going to meet friends and shop in Minot N.D. He said he planned to return to Canada the next day.

According to the affidavit, border patrol has documented multiple instances over the last several months in which Nigerian nationals were smuggled into Canada illegally from North Dakota.

"Law enforcement learned through the investigation that the individuals pay up to $2,000 USD to be smuggled into Canada," it says.

The documents say authorities started watching Omoruyi because they allege he was identified "as a human smuggler that has previously provided transportation ... for individuals who have then entered into Canada illegally."

The court papers detail how border agents followed Omoruyi for several hours on April 14, watched him meet up with another man at a hotel and saw him drive around a mall parking lot.

Two men went back to the hotel where five adults and four children got into the vehicle, a few at a time, the documents say.

The SUV stopped for gas before heading north toward the border, at which point a U.S. border agent called the RCMP.

The documents say photos of Omoruyi, his vehicle and his passengers were captured by border patrol surveillance cameras in an area of open farm fields near the border.

"Omoruyi was clearly seen stopping his vehicle, exiting from the driver's seat and opening rear doors. All other occupants then exited the vehicle. Omoruyi appeared to help the children exit the vehicle. Once all of the passengers were out of the vehicle, Omoruyi got back into the driver's seat and departed the same way he arrived," according to the affidavit.

Authorities say the SUV met with a sedan before officers stopped the SUV and arrested Omoruyi, along with another Canadian and a Nigerian citizen.

The Canadian is identified as a woman named Tosin Johnson, who was born in Nigeria. The Nigerian citizen is a man named Success Okundia.

Border agents said they took all three into custody because they gave inconsistent statements, had "nervous behaviour including stuttering and shaking during questioning, and (because of) the close proximity to the border near an area of previous known smuggling activity."

Agents also noted that Omoruyi's shoes were clean, but the passengers' shoes were covered in mud.

The documents say that in an interview with U.S. authorities, Omoruyi denied driving anyone from Minot.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The next steps in the process were unclear Friday. All three remain in custody in North Dakota and there is no record that Omoruyi, Okundia and Johnson have been charged with any crime. There is no indication they have retained lawyers. 

The documents say an RCMP officer saw the nine passengers walk north, through an open field, to Canada and make it to a vehicle waiting to pick them up.

RCMP said Wednesday that a woman was stopped April 14 on the Canadian side of the border between the North Portal and Northgate crossings, the legal entry points into Saskatchewan from North Dakota.

Police said nine people from West Africa were in her vehicle, but authorities would not confirm their ages, gender or nationalities.

They were processed by the Canada Border Services Agency and have been released into Canada. All nine have made refugee claims.

Omoruyi's wife, Michelle, is charged with human smuggling and conspiracy to commit human smuggling. She is to appear in court May 15 in Estevan, Sask.

Her lawyer, Aaron Fox, has declined to comment.

The documents also say Johnson, the woman arrested in the U.S., was first admitted to that country as a Nigerian visitor in 2003, but overstayed her permit. She married an American and filed an immigrant petition, which was ultimately denied.

She left the U.S. for Canada in 2008. Her last attempt to enter the U.S. through Toronto in February was denied, according to the affidavit.

Record checks show Okundia had multiple visa applications for admission to the U.S., but all were denied.

 

 

Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press

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Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:18:36 -0400

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