BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In what one agent said could be the largest cocaine bust ever seen in Western New York, nearly a thousand pounds of the narcotic were seized from a tractor-trailer at a Buffalo truck stop, with one arrested and facing several drug charges, U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced Friday.

Ross announced at a press conference held with multiple other law enforcement officials that Canadian resident Ahmed El Kady was arraigned on multiple charges of possession with intent to distribute, after a days-long surveillance effort of El Kady’s bobtailed semi-truck ended with officers discovering more than 850 pounds of a substance testing positive for cocaine.

In all, approximately 430 kilograms, or approximately 948 pounds, of cocaine was seized in an operation that involved the input of law enforcement agencies in both the U.S. and Canada, according to Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Scarpino.

“This is clearly a significant amount of drugs that were meant to be distributed into the Western New York community,” Ross said. “Because of the diligent and the excellent work of law enforcement and this office, this poison was intercepted and will not be disbursed into our community. This is important to our community as we see the deaths from opioid poisoning rise.”

According to a criminal complaint shared with news media, law enforcement began following El Kady on Aug. 7 after he entered the United States from Canada through the border in Detroit, Mich. driving a Frieghtliner commercial truck without a trailer attached. The truck had Ontario license plates.

Over the following days, officers continued to surveil El Kady as he made what appeared to be multiple meetups and exchanges with other commercial trucks throughout Michigan and Ohio as he travelled toward Western New York.

In the complaint, the investigating special agent details three encounters where El Kady’s and another commercial truck were parked “in such a manner that, when opening the tractor trailer doors, it appeared to law enforcement to be an attempt to conceal their actions from potential onlookers.” Inspections of all three commercial trucks that El Kady met with resulted in negative tests for narcotics.

El Kady arrived at a truck stop in Buffalo on Wednesday, with officers continuing to stake him out. On Thursday morning, a white Jeep operated by a suspected accomplice picked El Kady up, with the driver making frequent stops and “driving evasively in a manner consistent with individuals conducting counter surveillance. Officers say they kept their eyes on El Kady’s semi-truck, which was not accessed by anyone else while El Kady was in the Jeep.

Sometime later, El Kady and the Jeep driver returned and officers executed a search warrant on El Kady’s truck, revealing approximately 386 kilograms, or about 850 pounds, of a substance that tested positive for cocaine.

Scarpino said the illegal drugs that circulate the area around the northern border are smuggled by “transnational criminal organizations operating locally, nationally and internationally.”

“Through this seizure, we have significantly disrupted the day-to-day operations of this criminal organization and choked off a major drug pipeline of illicit narcotics into our region,” Scarpino said. “From what I understand this may be the largest cocaine seizure in Western New York, or perhaps even the northern border, I have not confirmed that yet.”

El Kady is set to return to court on Monday.

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Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.