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  1. Just saying. Nice article from 2006. In upstate New York and across the Canadian border, the roughly 11,000 Indians living here now have long dipped their hands into the rewarding till of smuggling, moving goods as varied as diapers and tobacco across this lightly patrolled frontier, 12 wide-open miles of water and land separating the two countries. Some here say that smuggling, dating back to before the days of Prohibition, is a birthright. While much of the nation's drug enforcement effort has focused on the Mexican border, the reservation has become a pipeline for the flow of drugs and guns between Canada and the United States. In warmer weather, speedboats cruise across the St. Lawrence River, ferrying drugs south and weapons and cash north; in the winter cars and vans race over an ice bridge on the river, the authorities say. A retired special agent here for the Border Patrol's former antismuggling unit, Edward Barrett, said that when he was working undercover along the Mexican border in Texas, a drug smuggler told him that if he could not move narcotics across the southern border, he could easily do it through Canada and "the black hole," the traffickers' nickname for the Mohawk land. "It's guaranteed to go through," he said. On the 14,000-acre reservation, evidence of the drug trade is easily visible from the million-dollar mansions with high gates and elaborate fences that are being built in a place with an unemployment rate of about 50 percent, and where tumbledown government housing was once the common sight. Despite the many obstacles, prosecutors have had some success in combating drug rings here. In November, Lawrence Mitchell, a member of the Mohawk tribe, pleaded guilty to orchestrating the movement of large quantities of marijuana across the United States-Canada border. Numerous times, according to his plea, Mr. Mitchell, 35, arranged for the transportation of loads averaging 50 to 100 pounds, destined for Syracuse, Utica and other parts of New York; Massachusetts; and Florida. Prosecutors say he also laundered tens of millions of dollars in marijuana trafficking money over three years, through his construction company and car dealership. He was sentenced in November to 10 years in prison. Mr. Mitchell — who owned two houses on the reservation, one on each side of the border, until the authorities seized the American house — earned at least $2.2 million in drug money from 2001 to 2004, investigators say, but the money trail was hard to follow. Along with Mr. Mitchell, five other people, including a New York State Police dispatcher who was accused of tipping off Mr. Mitchell's drug runners to police presence on the border, have pleaded guilty so far in the case. Mr. Mitchell's lawyer, Stanley Cohen of New York City, who also represented Mr. Oakes and is best known for representing terrorism suspects, said law enforcement officials had used such arrests to wrongly portray the reservation as infested with drug traffickers. And Mr. Cohen objected to investigators' contentions that his clients were involved in criminal activities that went beyond what they admitted to. "If they had evidence of more significant or more egregious or more disturbing activity by either of these clients, they would have proved it," he said. Meanwhile, as prosecutors say drug traffickers are doing business in Indian country at a rapidly growing pace, many tribes are responding on their own to the drug crime and addiction epidemic. At the Mohawk Reservation, the tribe spends more than half the revenue from its casino and other enterprises — roughly $2 million annually — on border patrol and other law enforcement. Tribal leaders say they could fight the trafficking here better than outside law enforcement, given adequate resources. "We feel like that's our responsibility," said James W. Ransom, a Mohawk tribal chief. "That's our goal." The Mohawk tribe has received $5,000 annually from the Department of Homeland Security and used the entire grant over the last two years to build a security fence around the new police headquarters, tribal officials said. Working with stretched resources and huge barriers, many tribal detectives across Indian country say they are facing an impossible task. "If I were a drug trafficker, I'd choose this place," said Brian Barnes, deputy chief of police for the Mohawk tribe, as he headed out on the police department's lone working speedboat to patrol the St. Lawrence River.
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