Couple to Face Smuggling Charges for Trying to Drive New SUV into Canada

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Couple to Face Smuggling Charges for Trying to Drive New SUV into Canada

Emmanuel Tava, 41, and Fortune Mendaza, 38, a husband and wife from Stittsville, Ontario, have been charged under the Customs Act with attempted smuggling and evasion of the payment of duties in relation to a 2015 SUV that they allegedly tried to drive across the border without declaring for import. The two have a hearing date this Friday, July 18, at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brockville.

Tava and Mendaza have not commented on the matter. Chris Kealey, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), laid out the agency’s version of events as follows:

On April 29, Tava arrived at the Lansdowne (Thousand Islands Bridge) port of entry driving the SUV, which he had bought in the U.S. for over $68,000, but did not declare that he was importing it. Customs officers impounded the vehicle and gave Tava the option of taking it back to the U.S. or filing the correct paperwork to import it into Canada.

Tava decided to leave the SUV at the border crossing, where it remained until May 24, when Mendaza came to pick it up. She chose to drive it back into the U.S. rather than import it. However, instead of keeping the vehicle in that country, she drove it to the Prescott port of entry. As in April, the SUV was not declared for import and was seized, but this time Mendaza was arrested after Prescott customs officers discovered the Lansdowne incident.

A warrant was also issued for Tava, who turned himself in on June 12. Both he and Mendaza have been released on promises to appear. If convicted of smuggling upon indictment, they could be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined up to $500,000. There are also likely to be substantial civil penalties based on the amount they would have paid to import the SUV had it been properly declared.