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3 men accused of smuggling New York cheese; Niagara Regional Police officer, ex-colleague among suspects

One current Niagara Regional Police officer and a former one are among three men arrested Thursday following an extensive investigation into "large-scale" smuggling of cheese from New York State into Ontario, according to Canadian authorities and media outlets.

The men were buying cheese in New York, where the product is far cheaper, then sneaking the cases of cheese across the border and selling the contraband items at a profit of thousands of dollars per trip, Niagara Regional Police said in a statement.

Police said the three Fort Erie residents accused of running the network spent $200,000 (Canadian) on cases of cheese and other items in this country and likely earned more than $165,000 in profit by reselling it to pizzerias and other restaurants in Southern Ontario.

"The investigation revealed that there was a significant financial gain to be made in the smuggling operation," Niagara Regional Police said in a news release announcing the arrests.

The three suspects are:

*Scott Heron, a Niagara Regional Police constable, charged with conspiracy to smuggle goods and breach of trust, both criminal offenses, and several violations of the Customs Act. Heron, 39, was suspended from duty June 26.

*Casey Langelaan, 48, charged with the same violations of the criminal code and Customs Act. He also was a member of the police service and also was suspended from duty June 26, but he has since resigned from the force, Constable Derek Watson, a police spokesman, confirmed.

*Bernie Pollino, 44, is charged with the same violations as the other two men but not breach of trust.

The men are accused of transporting the cases of cheese into Ontario without declaring the items or paying duty on them, according to the police statement. Cheese in New York can be purchased for one-third its price in Ontario, Watson said.

The CBC earlier this week revealed the existence of the investigation, saying officers were suspected of hiding the cheese in their vehicles to avoid inspection. The news organization quoted pizzeria owners who said they had been approached by a man offering to sell them bricks of smuggled cheese at low prices.

Watson couldn't immediately say whether the owners of any restaurants that did buy the contraband cheese would face charges.

The investigation, which began in January, involved agents from the Niagara Regional Police, the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.