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Three Massachusetts women charged with attempting to smuggle marijuana into U.S.

STAFF REPORTS


BUFFALO -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Briha K. Younger, 25, Jenae R. Johnson, 28, both of Boston, MA, and Micaela G. Ratcliffe, 28, of Dorchester, MA, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with smuggling of goods into the United States, importation of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance. The charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremiah E. Lenihan, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on Monday, August 5, 2019, at approximately 8:15 a.m., the defendants attempted to enter the United States from Canada at the Lewiston Queenston Bridge Port of Entry in Lewiston, NY. The defendants all gave a negative declaration when asked if there was any marijuana and/or contraband in the vehicle. A Customs and Border Protection office noted that Ratcliffe had a record for a prior incident involving travel with marijuana and referred the defendants for a secondary inspection.

The defendants once again gave a negative declaration for narcotics. However, when a CBP officer searched Younger’s purse, multiple rolled joints containing suspected marijuana were recovered. During a subsequent search of the vehicle, officers found commercial packaged marijuana and marijuana products in multiple bags, that the investigation suggested had been lawfully purchased at marijuana dispensaries in Canada. All three defendants were arrested at the scene.

Younger, Johnson, and Ratcliffe made an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer and were released on conditions.

“The possession of marijuana and its importation into the United States remain federal crimes,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The fact that it may have been lawfully purchased in Canada does not change that. To those who may ask what’s the harm here? My response is simple. In the last two weeks right here in Erie County, two different individuals have been charged with manslaughter for having been involved in fatal car crashes while driving under the influence of marijuana. The first victim was a woman who was struck by a drugged driver while walking down a sidewalk. The second victim was a woman who was watching television in her living room when a drugged driver plowed his car into her apartment and killed her. If this office, together with our federal partners, can help to save the lives of innocent potential future victims by curbing the flow of marijuana into our community and/or by letting the public know of the significant legal consequences that flow from being charged with a violation of federal law, then we will not hesitate to act. Such actions are undertaken not only enhance the safety of our community but quite possibly to prevent today’s marijuana possessor or importer from either becoming or supplying tomorrow’s manslaughter defendant. Regardless of the law in Canada—or even New York State—the public must be aware that the manufacture, possession, distribution, or importation of marijuana remain federal crimes.”

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

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

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