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Rochester woman charged with attempting to smuggle marijuana into the U.S. from Canada

STAFF REPORTS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Michelle Vanessa Cecala, 24, of Rochester, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possession and importation of a controlled substance, and smuggling goods into the United States. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Astorga, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on November 15, 2018, at approximately 7:53 p.m., the defendant attempted to enter the United States from Canada at the Lewiston Port of Entry. Cecala was driving a vehicle and stated during primary inspection that she did not have any drugs, weapons, or prohibited items.

During a secondary inspection of the vehicle, a bag of marijuana was discovered concealed in a backpack in the trunk of the defendant’s vehicle. In addition, four commercially sealed packages labeled “medical marijuana” were found inside the defendant’s purse.

The defendant made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and was released.

The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation by Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.