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Dear SPRT Stock Fans, Mark Your Calendars for a Final Catalyst on Sept. 14

Last week saw the culmination of an important decision that posed significant consequences for two companies as shareholders voted to approve the merger…

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Last week saw the culmination of an important decision that posed significant consequences for two companies as shareholders voted to approve the merger between Support.com (NASDAQ:SPRT) and Greenidge Generation Holdings. The vote resulted in a unanimous decision for the deal to move forward. Today, investors who hold SPRT stock finally received the announcement they had been waiting for regarding the final stages of the merger.

Source: biggunsband / Shutterstock.com

As of Sept. 14, the merger should be official. Then, Greenidge will make its debut on the Nasdaq under the ticker GREE.

What Happened With SPRT Stock?

SPRT stock has had a turbulent year, to say the least. Over the last 12 months it has risen considerably, up more than 860%. Shares really began to rise in March when talk of the deal first began, and peaked in late August when it became clear that the merger was becoming more and more likely to go through. This deal saw a struggling digital help-desk company combine with an industry innovator with holdings in two rapidly growing areas of tech — renewable energy and blockchain development.

Since the shareholder vote took place, though, shares have dropped from the initial spike that we saw earlier in the month. As of this writing, they are down 9.24% on the day.

Even with this type of turbulence, there is little cause for investors to be concerned about the fate of SPRT stock as the companies move to the final stages of the deal.

Why It Matters

I’ve maintained throughout the month that this deal will ultimately prove beneficial for both companies, and that it makes considerable sense for Support.com.

The current downturn in shares doesn’t change that. The final stages of a merger or acquisition that holds the power to shift prices considerably can easily generate this type of uncertainty.

For those who are still opting for a bullish perspective on SPRT stock, though, the industry landscape still looks good. And even better is the fact that this deal, months in the making, is about to conclude, allowing the new company to move forward and start regaining the the market momentum that it had last week.

SPRT Stock: What’s Next?

Assuming no regulatory obstacles arise, all systems should be go on this merger as of tomorrow.
One interesting aspect to the saga that has unfolded is that it has helped Support.com garner almost meme stock status among investing communities, leading to some helpful media buzz. It’s been touted by Twitter personality Will Meade as a potential short squeeze play, the type of hype that really attracts retail investors.

Meade also thinks that the possibility is there for SPRT stock to go as high as $50 per share and as of now, that’s not beyond the realm of possibility, particularly if this type of hype continues. Greenidge is exactly the type of company that Support.com needed to merge with.

Be on the lookout. Before long SPRT stock will be a thing of the past, and GREE stock will be trading.

On the date of publication, Samuel O’Brient did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

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Energy & Critical Metals

REE Automotive Can Surprise Investors With a Comeback

Are you in the market for a low-priced stock with multi-bagger potential? Consider electric vehicle (EV) systems up-and-comer REE Automotive (NASDAQ:REE)….

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Are you in the market for a low-priced stock with multi-bagger potential? Consider electric vehicle (EV) systems up-and-comer REE Automotive (NASDAQ:REE). It’s a risky proposition, I’ll concede, as REE stock isn’t doing particularly well in 2021 — but it just might pay off.

electric vehicles charging at a charging station. electric vehicle stocksSource: Scharfsinn / Shutterstock.com

To give you a quick primer, REE Automotive doesn’t actually manufacture cars. Rather, the company makes REEBoard, a modular system used to hold the battery and other components.

Additionally, the company makes REEcorner: a system designed to hold powertrains, steering and braking within a wheel well. It’s also important to know that REE Automotive is a product of a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger.

As we’ll see, some traders have been putting negative price pressure on the stock. If you’re willing to take a chance on a possible hidden gem in the EV market, though, then let’s see what’s under the hood of REE Automotive.

A Closer Look at REE Stock

REE Automotive shares started trading on the Nasdaq Exchange on July 23. This occurred after a SPAC merger with the ambitiously named 10X Capital Venture Acquisition Corp.

The implied hope of 10x gains, however, aren’t panning out so far.

As is common for pre-SPAC stocks, the share price started out near $10. But REE stock was destined for significantly lower price points. By the last day of August, the share price had fallen to $6. Then, as of mid-September, the stock was hovering near $5.50.

What happened here? A contributing factor could be the market’s general weariness about SPAC stocks and electric vehicle industry stocks.

However, there could be a serious bargain right in front of us now. Don’t assume that the dropping share price of REE stock means the company isn’t making significant progress in multiple areas.

A Grant for EV Advancement

If anything can boost a start-up’s future prospects, it’s a government green-light. And speaking of green, REE Automotive received a nice capital infusion to the tune of $17 million from the U.K. government recently.

This funding was part of a larger $57 million investment coordinated through the Advanced Propulsion Centre.

Apparently, the larger purpose of the funding is to accelerate the U.K.’s move to zero-emission vehicles while de-carbonizing the nation’s transport networks. This should be good for the environment — and great for REE Automotive.

As COO Mike Charlton observed, the funding complements REE Automotive’s already considerable commitment to the U.K., in the form of a potentially important technology hub in the country:

“With the opening of our Engineering Center in the UK in February this year, this reaffirms our commitment to the region and is in line with our plans for the mass production of our breakthrough REEcorner and electric vehicle platform technology.”

REE Stock Has Forward Momentum

What Charlton is referring to is the Engineering Center of Excellence. This was established in the U.K. to industrialize the company’s products and manufacturing with “state-of-the-art testing and engineering equipment.”

Along with that, REE Automotive marked a number of events in recent months — all of which indicate the company’s forward momentum.

For example, the company reaffirmed its progress by developing and presenting five REEcorner architecture designs. The new tech is compatible with vehicles in classes one through six.

Also, during 2021’s first half, REE Automotive received five patent grants and filed 26 new patent applications. On the fiscal front, the company reported having about $300 million in cash as of July 22.

Moreover, REE Automotive chose Austin, Texas as the site of its U.S. Integration Center. This facility should have an annual capacity of 40,000 modular electric vehicle platforms. The new location and increased production will support REE Automotive’s targets for 2023.

REE Automotive Is a Risky Bet That Could Pay off

All in all, there are quite a few encouraging developments happening at REE Automotive. Yet the stock has disappointed the company’s investors so far.

Granted, there’s risk involved when you’re holding post-SPAC electric vehicle stocks. In the case of REE Automotive, though, the rewards could greatly outweigh the risks in due time.

On the date of publication, David Moadel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

David Moadel has provided compelling content – and crossed the occasional line – on behalf of Crush the Street, Market Realist, TalkMarkets, Finom Group, Benzinga, and (of course) InvestorPlace.com. He also serves as the chief analyst and market researcher for Portfolio Wealth Global and hosts the popular financial YouTube channel Looking at the Markets.

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High Voltage: Will the global market follow where Chinese lithium carbonate prices lead?

Technical and battery grade lithium carbonate prices increased by over 20% in the first two weeks of September in the Chinese domestic … Read More
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Technical and battery grade lithium carbonate prices increased by over 20% in the first two weeks of September in the Chinese domestic market.

And they’re now up 188.9% and 215% respectively this year.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s lithium price assessment said this is due to surging demand and raw material supply concerns which have combined to push Chinese domestic prices up to their highest levels since mid-2018.

“Throughout August and early September, the price rally for lithium chemicals and feedstock has been re-ignited on incredibly strong downstream demand, especially within the Chinese domestic market, which acts as a bellwether for the rest of the world’s lithium market,” Benchmark analyst George Miller said.

Carbonate price increases are outpacing lithium hydroxide – and could soon race ahead.

And China EXW lithium hydroxide prices rose 14.2% in the first half of September, up 162.7% year-to-date.

Lithium carbonate prices could soon outpace lithium hydroxide.

But not everything is rosy in lithium land

On September 11 protestors demanded a halt to the development of Rio Tinto’s (ASX:RIO) proposed $2.4 billion Jadar lithium project in Serbia.

It’s the latest in a wave of community protests against battery metal projects in Western jurisdictions.

It’s a bit of a pickle because Europe is poised to become the second-largest consumer of lithium chemicals worldwide within the next decade – and the goal is supply chain accountability and security.

Not to mention Serbia is seeking to join the EU and environmental regulatory improvement has been cited as one key area where the country needs to improve.

Roskill’s Dominic Wells said countries like Serbia need to decide what mineral policy direction best suits their needs.

“They can maintain their reliance on overseas imports and have little direct control regarding the environmental cost of production, though will be insulated from the environmental impacts,” he said.

“Alternatively, they can develop domestic sources of these chemicals, set their own standards of production but bear the environmental cost and attempt to lessen it where possible.
 

Community conflicts inevitable

“Given the growing number of European mining projects looking to capitalise on domestic demand for lithium chemicals, further conflict between communities, miners, and the governments is inevitable,” Wells said.

“Regulation such as the European Union’s proposed Battery Passport scheme and Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism touch on the issue, attempting to improve the environmental cost of non-EU producers.

“However, they have little to no impact on the conditions of domestic production. Should battery metal projects be developed, policymakers in lithium producing countries will need to self-regulate the conditions of production to appease both local groups and the producers themselves.”

 

Pangang moves into vanadium redox batteries

In other battery metals news, Chinese producer Pangang Group Vanadum and Titanium Resources signed an agreement with Dalian Bolong New Materials (BNM) to develop and promote vanadium redox battery (VRB) technology in China.

Roskill analyst Jack Anderson said the companies will also promote the potential of VRB use within the steel industry to reduce carbon consumption, new energy power generation and peak shaving services.

“Over the past couple of years an increasing number of primary and secondary vanadium producers have incorporated VRBs as an end-use application into their own business models,” he said.

“This represents a new precedent in vanadium market dynamics and has been reinforced by vanadium producers planning to vertically integrate mining and recycling operations downstream to VRBs.”

It’s part of China’s aim to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060 as part of the Paris Agreement.

“In order to achieve this, and in line with the country’s 14th five-year plan, China intends to massively expand its renewables energy capacity, which will require large scale energy storage,” Anderson said.

“Despite the large potential for Li-ion battery energy storage in China, the country’s significant vanadium production boosts VRB’s domestic potential.”

 

Here’s how a basket of ASX stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, and vanadium are performing>>>

Code Company Price %Mth %SixMth %Wk %Yr MktCap
HNR Hannans Ltd 0.037 429 363 270 429 $ 51,919,498.22
LTR Liontown Resources 1.545 66 243 37 713 $ 2,950,260,451.05
ADD Adavale Resource Ltd 0.073 30 43 35 103 $ 22,748,680.82
ESS Essential Metals Ltd 0.22 22 91 26 134 $ 58,216,893.63
INF Infinity Lithium 0.12 22 -35 25 33 $ 46,335,173.94
CXO Core Lithium 0.425 29 93 25 963 $ 704,299,017.24
EUR European Lithium Ltd 0.099 43 41 24 111 $ 109,844,238.42
SYA Sayona Mining Ltd 0.1825 40 487 18 1987 $ 1,163,414,691.04
PSC Prospect Res Ltd 0.405 27 125 17 161 $ 172,585,590.75
ARR American Rare Earths 0.17 17 79 13 400 $ 67,237,623.57
RLC Reedy Lagoon Corp. 0.026 30 4 13 100 $ 13,500,654.15
SBR Sabre Resources 0.005 25 25 11 -55 $ 8,415,318.25
STK Strickland Metals 0.045 22 119 10 -14 $ 51,870,384.19
MLX Metals X Limited 0.34 26 51 10 336 $ 326,615,784.12
QPM Queensland Pacific 0.24 33 155 9 1100 $ 359,237,479.72
MOH Moho Resources 0.065 5 -23 8 -41 $ 6,712,901.13
DEV Devex Resources Ltd 0.335 52 56 8 31 $ 115,437,737.63
TKL Traka Resources 0.014 0 -18 8 -32 $ 8,709,510.52
AML Aeon Metals Ltd. 0.059 5 -40 7 -59 $ 45,779,978.27
GME GME Resources Ltd 0.063 19 -6 7 47 $ 37,421,418.01
VR8 Vanadium Resources 0.065 18 59 7 150 $ 28,872,643.25
IXR Ionic Rare Earths 0.034 0 -32 6 278 $ 125,518,782.02
SGQ St George Min Ltd 0.071 6 -22 6 -35 $ 45,956,893.09
GL1 Globallith 0.41 17 5 $ 38,259,635.28
HAS Hastings Tech Met 0.22 5 10 5 76 $ 425,921,540.17
AVL Aust Vanadium Ltd 0.023 -18 0 5 35 $ 82,020,637.03
RFR Rafaella Resources 0.092 11 -12 5 16 $ 18,120,529.71
PLS Pilbara Min Ltd 2.14 -3 99 4 529 $ 6,722,157,616.03
LPD Lepidico Ltd 0.025 32 0 4 257 $ 172,258,748.51
LIT Lithium Australia NL 0.125 -7 -7 4 140 $ 133,370,889.26
PUR Pursuit Minerals 0.051 -15 -24 4 265 $ 47,787,709.72
NMT Neometals Ltd 0.825 4 106 4 371 $ 493,538,756.40
NMT Neometals Ltd 0.825 4 106 4 371 $ 493,538,756.40
RNU Renascor Res Ltd 0.14 59 0 4 900 $ 300,934,984.32
AXE Archer Materials 1.825 -13 84 4 238 $ 437,196,568.32
TNG TNG Limited 0.085 -3 -19 4 -8 $ 111,205,236.56
MAN Mandrake Res Ltd 0.057 -5 -58 4 -8 $ 28,169,583.63
MRC Mineral Commodities 0.15 0 -61 3 -54 $ 77,428,641.93
ARN Aldoro Resources 0.495 -19 141 3 395 $ 40,000,683.00
ARN Aldoro Resources 0.495 -19 141 3 395 $ 40,000,683.00
AOU Auroch Minerals Ltd 0.19 9 -12 3 164 $ 56,045,797.39
REE Rarex Limited 0.1025 11 -18 3 39 $ 50,064,468.46
HWK Hawkstone Mng Ltd 0.041 8 14 3 193 $ 70,366,704.98
EMH European Metals Hldg 1.55 -12 -14 2 252 $ 208,147,144.00
AVZ AVZ Minerals Ltd 0.265 8 36 2 321 $ 901,088,350.40
TLG Talga Group Ltd 1.42 7 8 1 125 $ 459,393,307.59
BRB Breaker Res NL 0.25 25 22 0 2 $ 89,606,255.48
CZN Corazon Ltd 0.038 -5 -28 0 -5 $ 7,716,057.47
IPT Impact Minerals 0.013 0 -46 0 -48 $ 26,309,333.95
TON Triton Min Ltd 0.031 -9 -38 0 -42 $ 36,302,978.14
ALY Alchemy Resource Ltd 0.014 0 -7 0 -22 $ 10,083,651.80
ESR Estrella Res Ltd 0.042 8 -34 0 200 $ 49,967,880.82
VML Vital Metals Limited 0.062 -3 -23 0 226 $ 279,087,366.63
VMC Venus Metals Cor Ltd 0.175 -3 -10 0 -34 $ 26,438,769.53
TMT Technology Metals 0.4 0 10 0 63 $ 67,580,125.65
QXR Qx Resources Limited 0.012 9 -25 0 -29 $ 7,996,347.85
ATM Aneka Tambang 1 0 0 0 0 $ 1,303,649.00
AJM Altura Mining Ltd 0.07 0 0 0 0 $ 209,037,029.25
LML Lincoln Minerals 0.008 0 0 0 14 $ 4,599,869.49
GBR Greatbould Resources 0.155 99 297 0 231 $ 60,730,087.53
COB Cobalt Blue Ltd 0.325 25 -20 0 246 $ 104,473,896.45
BOA Boadicea Resources 0.185 -20 -19 0 -6 $ 14,762,980.05
LKE Lake Resources 0.515 -16 45 -1 820 $ 571,265,552.50
ARL Ardea Resources Ltd 0.46 -8 -15 -1 -14 $ 66,256,425.12
SRL Sunrise 1.665 -6 -34 -1 -43 $ 154,449,262.49
PGM Platina Resources 0.066 -6 38 -1 3 $ 31,275,528.62
SRI Sipa Resources Ltd 0.062 -2 3 -2 -25 $ 11,130,380.31
FFX Firefinch Ltd 0.605 8 163 -2 290 $ 595,842,336.05
LPI Lithium Pwr Int Ltd 0.28 0 -2 -2 75 $ 106,374,803.64
AUZ Australian Mines Ltd 0.0235 2 26 -2 50 $ 103,285,418.74
NKL Nickelxltd 0.215 -2 -2 $ 12,037,500.00
NTU Northern Min Ltd 0.041 5 5 -2 32 $ 203,351,944.57
HXG Hexagon Energy 0.078 8 -26 -3 34 $ 37,019,147.64
CWX Carawine Resources 0.195 -11 -30 -3 -25 $ 21,505,755.65
BKT Black Rock Mining 0.18 24 33 -3 233 $ 174,400,185.46
AZS Azure Minerals 0.345 53 3 -3 68 $ 111,324,859.56
AGY Argosy Minerals Ltd 0.17 17 72 -3 209 $ 225,048,906.72
JRV Jervois Global Ltd 0.5 9 9 -3 64 $ 840,887,083.41
CHN Chalice Mining Ltd 6.97 9 48 -3 344 $ 2,661,153,877.20
VRC Volt Resources Ltd 0.033 18 74 -3 120 $ 92,672,200.43
ADV Ardiden Ltd 0.0145 32 -24 -3 -48 $ 32,240,313.24
BEM Blackearth Minerals 0.13 18 0 -4 217 $ 33,696,266.39
ORE Orocobre Limited 8.63 -6 75 -4 220 $ 5,955,522,648.90
PAM Pan Asia Metals 0.465 174 244 -4 $ 33,986,028.78
PAM Pan Asia Metals 0.465 174 244 -4 $ 33,986,028.78
BMM Balkanminingandmin 0.765 25 -4 $ 26,000,000.00
NWC New World Resources 0.064 -12 -10 -4 52 $ 107,958,408.64
INR Ioneer Ltd 0.63 37 48 -5 473 $ 1,256,769,954.66
PEK Peak Resources 0.08 -10 -12 -5 176 $ 156,291,618.67
RXL Rox Resources 0.4 1 -28 -5 -57 $ 65,407,159.81
S2R S2 Resources 0.093 -34 -47 -5 -61 $ 35,281,110.65
CHR Charger Metals 0.55 -10 -5 $ 18,257,689.95
FGR First Graphene Ltd 0.175 -20 -33 -5 40 $ 101,698,382.41
LYC Lynas Rare Earths 6.68 -4 6 -6 175 $ 6,804,183,117.16
SLZ Sultan Resources Ltd 0.16 -9 -14 -6 -24 $ 11,125,502.24
PRL Province Resources 0.155 3 29 -6 485 $ 186,393,868.82
GLN Galan Lithium Ltd 0.985 -15 103 -6 579 $ 284,809,614.60
PNN PepinNini Minerals 0.29 -6 -17 -6 133 $ 14,591,200.64
ARU Arafura Resource Ltd 0.14 12 -24 -7 82 $ 240,241,836.46
BSX Blackstone Ltd 0.48 12 7 -7 9 $ 173,280,738.80
WKT Walkabout Resources 0.205 -13 37 -7 -13 $ 87,208,379.04
IGO IGO Limited 8.92 -6 40 -7 96 $ 7,095,599,407.81
IGO IGO Limited 8.92 -6 40 -7 96 $ 7,095,599,407.81
OZL OZ Minerals 21.83 -1 -6 -7 52 $ 7,774,160,870.90
GAL Galileo Mining Ltd 0.265 -22 23 -7 -9 $ 48,749,349.45
MCR Mincor Resources NL 1.26 1 32 -7 42 $ 623,014,720.90
PLL Piedmont Lithium Inc 0.69 -12 -32 -7 431 $ 409,580,611.00
BUX Buxton Resources Ltd 0.07 -30 -3 -8 -42 $ 9,523,880.24
LEG Legend Mining 0.069 -14 -45 -8 -55 $ 192,859,500.47
NIC Nickel Mines Limited 0.985 -4 -31 -9 42 $ 2,741,381,665.59
VUL Vulcan Energy 14.55 9 129 -8 1553 $ 1,650,364,991.88
PAN Panoramic Resources 0.205 21 58 -9 116 $ 451,201,080.88
AAJ Aruma Resources Ltd 0.088 4 60 -9 -35 $ 11,588,458.28
CNJ Conico Ltd 0.058 -16 76 -9 287 $ 58,741,087.04
BHP BHP Group Limited 37.37 -27 -19 -9 0 $ 115,531,844,589.04
MNS Magnis Energy Tech 0.32 -3 0 -10 60 $ 311,360,572.91
BAR Barra Resources 0.026 37 24 -10 24 $ 22,151,850.36
AQD Ausquest Limited 0.017 -15 -15 -11 -47 $ 15,640,606.79
POS Poseidon Nick Ltd 0.105 -9 69 -13 88 $ 337,035,547.86
G88 Golden Mile Res Ltd 0.048 -16 -8 -13 -23 $ 9,234,989.71
GED Golden Deeps 0.01 -9 0 -13 -41 $ 8,534,365.84
SYR Syrah Resources 1.155 -13 -3 -13 148 $ 603,469,014.83
CTM Centaurus Metals Ltd 0.93 2 14 -14 94 $ 350,603,633.04
EGR Ecograf Limited 0.715 -16 3 -14 430 $ 337,375,094.25
GW1 Greenwing Resources 0.31 22 -11 -15 77 $ 35,803,805.05
MIN Mineral Resources. 45.05 -21 17 -15 81 $ 9,113,911,182.86
CLA Celsius Resource Ltd 0.025 -4 -44 -17 -24 $ 29,322,386.27
ASN Anson Resources Ltd 0.091 0 18 -17 379 $ 85,372,475.99
MLS Metals Australia 0.0015 -25 -25 -25 -50 $ 8,454,376.09
JRL Jindalee Resources 2.31 -33 32 -32 413 $ 142,054,549.56

Scroll or swipe to reveal table. Click headings to sort. Best viewed on a laptop:

 

Only 46 of the 130 ASX battery metals stocks on our list posted gains last week.

Over the past year 55 stocks have posted a gain of 100% or more.

Three of them – Vulcan (ASX:VUL), Sayona Mining (ASX:SYA) and Queensland Pacific Metals (ASX:QPM) – have posted a gain of 1000% or higher, and there are several more knocking at the door.

There were several standouts, including Adavale Resources (ASX:ADD) up 35% after completing three drill holes at its Kabanga Jirani Nickel Project in Tanzania.

Infinity Lithium (ASX:INF) was up 25% off the back of news it had delivered the first battery grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate and lithium carbonate produced at bench-scale from its San José project in Spain.

The company has commenced pilot-scale roasting which is scheduled for completion in early October and is a key step in the feasibility study for the project – which is poised to supply lithium to the European battery industry.

And Sayona was up 18% after a project review showed the potential to increase the lithium resource at its newly acquired North American Lithium (NAL) mine in Québec, Canada.

In 2017, NAL had a total foreign mineral resource estimate of 39.3 million tonnes at 1.04% Li2O and a conversion to Australia’s JORC standard is expected by the end of the year.

 

 

 

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Undercover Trucker: Hauling Half-Ton Of Pot For Feds In Sting

Undercover Trucker: Hauling Half-Ton Of Pot For Feds In Sting

By Nate Tabak of FreightWaves,

On Dec. 1, a truck driver pulling a flatbed…

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Undercover Trucker: Hauling Half-Ton Of Pot For Feds In Sting

By Nate Tabak of FreightWaves,

On Dec. 1, a truck driver pulling a flatbed trailer presented himself to U.S. border officers at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, one of the busiest commercial crossings with Canada. He had picked up his load of aluminum panels in Toronto and was delivering it some 450 miles away in Somerset, New Jersey. 

U.S. border officers have made numerous marijuana seizures from trucks coming from Canada via the Peace Bridge. (Photo: ricky shore/Flickr CC BY 2.0

At face value, it might have appeared as a typical cross-border run. But something aroused the suspicions of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers after the driver presented his manifest. The address of the shipper was linked to a marijuana seizure made at the Peace Bridge nearly six months earlier.  

So the officers scanned the flatbed with an X-ray machine used for cargo inspections. After spotting an anomaly, they inspected the cargo itself by hand. They removed the top aluminum panel and found the source of the anomaly: The remaining panels had been hollowed out and filled with vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana, totaling nearly 1,000 pounds, along with a suspected GPS tracker.

An image released by CBP for a congressional hearing shows how border officers detect drugs hidden in commercial vehicles.

By the next day, the driver was back on the road to New Jersey, still with the shipment of aluminum panels containing the marijuana. A team of agents from the Homeland Security Investigations Buffalo office tailed him. The driver was aware of the detail, having agreed to continue the delivery under their supervision, HSI agent Timothy Carroll wrote in an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York two days later. 

“HSI Buffalo personnel followed the tractor and trailer to its manifested destination of New Jersey, maintaining constant surveillance of the cargo,”  Carroll wrote. The surveillance included an overnight rest break in Pembroke, New York, after the driver ran out of hours.

The driver’s experience appeared in court documents filed in the case of two men charged with conspiring to smuggle the marijuana across the Canadian border and distribute it in the United States. In July, Ranjodh Singh, 22, pleaded guilty to a single charge in the case, while charges are pending against co-defendant Amanpreet Gill.

The case provides a window into the murky world of marijuana smuggling from Canada to the U.S. While the illicit trade has been active for years, seizures from commercial vehicles have soared after the border closed to nonessential travel in March 2020. That December marijuana seizure was one of 131 reported by CBP that month. Seizures in the Buffalo area accounted for more than half of that pot by weight.

The truck driver, who was not named, does not appear to have been charged. Court documents do not make any suggestion that he knew about the marijuana in the load or made any agreements with U.S. authorities in exchange for cooperation. Drivers caught with loads of drugs at the border aren’t necessarily charged, typically either due to lack of evidence or investigators or prosecutors concluding they weren’t involved.

Alvin Phillips, a spokesperson for HSI’s Buffalo field office, declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment. 

Trucker’s role in smuggling case unusual, lawyer says

Su Ross, a Los Angeles attorney who frequently represents carriers caught up in drug smuggling cases, said it’s unusual that a truck driver would be asked to continue with a contraband load. More commonly, authorities could be tracking the load without the driver’s knowledge, or a federal agent with a commercial driver’s license would take over to avoid “the appearance of impropriety,” said Ross, a partner with the law firm MSK.

“It’s surprising,” Ross said. “Maybe they [HSI] didn’t have someone available with a commercial license.” 

Ross also questioned the wisdom of having the driver’s role disclosed in publicly available court documents. Even though the trucker wasn’t named, Ross said it would have been easy for any criminal organizations involved to figure out their identity. 

“I’m surprised they disclosed that,” Ross said

Trucker being watched by the feds – and the criminals too

Court documents don’t detail the conversations the driver had with HSI agents, who are typically notified after CBP officers find contraband. But the driver’s cooperation appears to have extended beyond simply driving the load.

After his rest break in New York, the driver and the HSI agents continued toward New Jersey on Dec. 2. At some point, the driver received a call from someone named Alex, who informed him that the destination address had changed, according to court documents. The driver then received a text message with a new address and a phone number, along with these instructions: “Ask for Jim.”

By the time the driver arrived at the new delivery location just after 4 p.m., law enforcement already had the warehouse under surveillance. They observed someone who had arrived at the location earlier take photos of the truck and cargo, court documents state.

It took about one hour and 10 minutes for the aluminum panels and marijuana to be unloaded. The trucker drove away — followed by the man who had been taking photos of him. Singh later admitted to being that man in his plea agreement, which includes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. His iPhone contained 16 photos of the tractor-trailer. 

Law enforcement continued monitoring the New Jersey warehouse after the trucker left. The next day, on Dec. 3, another truck picked up the aluminum panels and delivered them to a second warehouse. Authorities subsequently entered the warehouse, arresting the driver and Singh’s co-defendant, Gill, according to court documents. Singh was arrested later after arriving at the facility.

The second truck driver maintained not knowing about the marijuana and does not appear to have been charged. Gill also denied being involved in the marijuana distribution conspiracy.

Singh’s lawyers declined to comment on the case. Gill’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

As for the original truck driver, it’s unclear what happened to him. Efforts to locate him or his carrier were unsuccessful. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 09/20/2021 - 15:02
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