A Canadian couple is accused of importing fentanyl products from China into the United States and then mailing the powerful opioid drugs to Canada.
Karl and Sorina Morrison, both 59, were arrested at a border crossing near Niagara Falls, N.Y., last month after an investigation by U.S. authorities.
The Kitchener, Ont., couple has been charged with conspiracy to import and export controlled substances and analogues, and attempt to export controlled substances and analogues.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1-million fine.
The couple has pleaded not guilty.
In a criminal complaint filed with a New York court, a Homeland Security agent says a package mailed from China to Karl Morrison at a mailbox in a UPS store in Niagara Falls, N.Y., contained four packets, two of which were found to contain types of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is an opioid-based pain killer roughly 100 times stronger than morphine.
"The Morrisons were attempting to smuggle the packages they received from China from the United States to Canada so as to avoid examination by the customs service of either country because the Morrisons knew the contents of the packages to be contraband," agent Curtis Ryan writes in the complaint.
The complaint notes that the Morrisons have a son and that since 2009, five packages mailed to him were seized by the Canada Border Services Agency after they were found to contain controlled substances.
In the current case, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted Ryan to a mail package that was considered suspicious because it originated from a known Chinese producer of fentanyl. The package was addressed to Karl Morrison, who maintains a mailbox at a UPS store in Niagara Falls, N.Y., the complaint said.
Ryan said he examined the package, which contained plastic bags with powders. Testing revealed that at least some of the bags contained types of fentanyl.
On Oct. 15, the Morrisons entered the U.S. from Canada at the Lewiston Queenston border crossing, stating that they intended to go shopping at an outlet mall, the complaint said.
The pair were under surveillance as they eventually made their way to the UPS store where Karl Morrison picked up four parcels which he placed in his trunk, the complaint said.
Morrison then opened the parcels, threw out the packaging material, which had Chinese shipping labels, and repacked the contents into new envelopes, the complaint said.
Sorina Morrison then went into the same UPS store her husband had retrieved the original package from and mailed three new parcels to Canada, the complaint said.
She told the store employee she was shipping "all natural cinnamon," the complaint said.
Those packages were later seized as evidence and were found to have been addressed to two locations in Kitchener, including one to the Morrisons' home address, the complaint said.
When the pair returned to the border crossing, they were detained by U.S. border officers.
In an interview at the border, Karl Morrison said his son had recently learned of his UPS mailbox in the U.S. and asked if he could have packages from Japan and China shipped there, which he agreed to, the complaint said.
Morrison said he picked up three packages for his son, which were from China, on Oct. 15 and said he knows his son is a drug abuser, the complaint said.
"Albert had explained to Karl what he was having sent to the mailbox in Niagara Falls," the complaint states. "Karl Morrison said he did not understand everything his son was telling him, but that Albert said the names of the things he was sending started with 'F' and 'U."'
Morrison also told authorities he and his wife mailed the packages to their son because they did not want to carry them across the border, the complaint said. He also said he used a random address as a return address on the packages being mailed to Canada because he didn't want them to be connected to his UPS mailbox, the complaint said.