Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


It's the smuggler's blues...

Posted 4/13/21 (Tue)

We often hear about drugs or counterfeit products being smuggled across the Canadian border, but the business of smuggling people has been going on since early territorial days.

Two of the best documented scenarios include Louis Riel in the 1870s and Al Capone in the 1920s.

There are two other well documented cases from 1995 and 2017. However, in the 2017 situation, some people were smuggled out of North Dakota and into Canada at the same time as smuggled in.

• In 1870, however, Louis Riel, the founder of the province of Manitoba, fled Fort Garry (now Winnipeg) and was smuggled across the border where the community of Neche now exists.

In fact, it was pretty well known at the time that the William Moorhead homestead, where Neche now sits, was called “Smuggler’s Point,” because it was a convenient Metis rendezvous point.

They came from both sides of the border to trade at Smuggler’s Point and Riel became one of them. Twelve years later the community of Neche was established.

Riel didn’t stay there, but went west to St. Joseph, which is now Walhalla, and stayed six months writing poetry and helping his friend Antoine Gingras at his trading post near Walhalla.

Riel later went west again to St. John, but history loses his trail until he turned up in Montana Territory.

• For Al Capone in the 1920s, it was more about smuggling booze across the border into North Dakota. He is fairly well known for bringing rail cars full of beer and other hard liquor from Moose Jaw to Minot.

But he also smuggled people, including himself across the western North Dakota border many times.

It was easy for Capone because documents at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas indicate that Capone paid off the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to look the other way when people crossed the boundary.

• What happened in December 1995 was very strange. To this day it is unknown who was responsible for the act, but five Somali nationals walked across the border in the middle of the night.

From there, they hoofed it two miles south to the community of Hannah where someone saw them in their white robes on a cold winter night and called the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department in Langdon.

They were taken into custody by Sheriff Dave Zeis and later deported back to Canada.

It turned out they flew into Toronto from Africa, had someone drive them from a small town in Ontario to just above the border where they walked across.

At the time, the port of entry at Hannah closed at 9 p.m., so when these people were seen late at night wandering around this small town of about 30 people, it was an instant red flag.

• In January 2017, it was Nigerians who were involved and a Canadian couple who were doing the smuggling.

Victor and Michelle Omoruyi had a pretty good plan going until they got caught.

Victor Omoruyi was a Canadian citizen of Nigerian descent. He would make frequent trips to Minot and transport Nigerian nationals from Minot, up to the border on the American side of the boundary.

Michelle Omoroyi was on the Saskatchewan side, waiting to pick them up. She would take them up to Regina where they blended into society and Victor would then cross through the port by himself and nobody was the wiser.

But somehow the word leaked out and the RCMP alerted the Burke County Sheriff’s Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol and U.S. Border Patrol and they were waiting for Victor and Michelle at their rendezvous points.

As this was all mounting, a plain clothed RCMP officer followed Victor from Regina, all the way to Minot (250 miles) and observed his movements.

That’s where he picked up nine Nigerian nationals from a Minot hotel and drove them up to Northgate.

They walked across the border to Northgate, Saskatchewan where Michelle was waiting in an SUV. As soon as they got in the vehicle, she was surrounded by RCMP and Canada Customs agents.

There are countless other cases like this that don’t get leaked out to the media.

And when people suggest the Canadian border is safe; well, yes it is, most of the time. But law enforcement has to be there to catch these unscrupulous individuals.