GREAT FALLS — Gurpal Singh Gill, a Canadian truck driver, admitted in federal court in Great Falls on Thursday to a drug trafficking crime.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents found 211 pounds of cocaine in a trailer load of bananas during an inspection as Gill was trying to enter Canada, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a news release.
Court documents alleged that on January 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 saw 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 only occupant of the semi-truck. 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 saw 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 federal Drug Enforcement Administration determined the packages contained a net weight of 95.7 kilograms of cocaine, which equates to about 211 pounds of cocaine.
Gill, 39 years old, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine as charged in a superseding information. He 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 Morris presided, and set sentencing for September 30. Gill was detained pending further proceedings.
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.