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Feds: Nurse used COVID-19 crisis to sneak 150 pounds of pot into US

Inside Detroit-Windsor Tunnel (Mikerussell/WikiCommons)

She showed up at the border in scrubs and a lab coat, the feds say, then got busted with a trunk full of weed.

A Canadian nurse has been charged with sneaking more than 150 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. by using her medical credentials — including a work badge from Henry Ford Hospital — to cross the border into Detroit, which is only open to essential travel because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“At a time when health care professionals are working overtime to keep us safe, it’s really shameful that anyone would exploit their status as a nurse to smuggle any kind of drug into our country,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said on Thursday, stressing: “To stop the spread of the coronavirus, our Canadian border is open only for essential travel.”

As the top prosecutor put it, smuggling 143 vacuum sealed bags of marijuana into the country “simply isn’t essential.”

Terri Leanne Maxwell, 48, a registered nurse from Amherstburg, Ontario, was charged Thursday with conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute, and importing more than 100 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. from Canada.

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“We were extremely disappointed to learn about these allegations. The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this criminal investigation,” Henry Ford Health System spokesperson Brenda Craig said in a statement.

According to the criminal complaint, here is what landed her on the federal government’s radar:

At 9:07 a.m. Thursday, Maxwell arrived at the Detroit border after crossing the Ambassador Bridge in her Ford Fusion. Dressed in scrubs, a lab coat and a work badge for Henry Ford Hospital, she presented to order officials her Canadian passport and work permit under the Trade NAFTA agreement. That showed she had valid status to work as a registered nurse.

Maxwell also had a placard in her vehicle dashboard, issued by the Canada Border Services Agency, showing that she is a first responder, as a health care worker.

Then came the search.

After reviewing Maxwell’s identification, records show, Customs Border and Patrol officers asked Maxwell to open her trunk.

There was an odor — smelled like marijuana. And large bags.

The officers opened the bags and found many more baggies inside: 143 in total. They were vacuum-sealed and full of what later tested positive as marijuana, authorities said.

Maxwell was taken into custody, though it wasn’t her first brush with border officials.

According to court records, in 2007, she was cited by CBP for possessing 5.8 grams of marijuana at the border.

Maxwell is currently locked up. She has a scheduled detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor on Friday, when a judge will decide whether to release her on bond or keep her jailed. If convicted, Maxwell could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

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© 2020 the Detroit Free Press