WALKER (AP) -- A long-haul mover is back at home after spending five days in Canadian jails because Canadian Customs officials found a large arsenal of weapons among the household goods he was transporting for a man moving from Delaware to Alaska.
Mark Eller, 36, of Walker, specializes in transporting household goods from the lower 48 states to Alaska, and wasn't expecting anything unusual when he pulled his rig into Canada Customs at North Portal, Saskatchewan, on June 29.
He told Customs inspectors twice that he wasn't carrying any weapons. Eller said the load had been in storage for a while and he forgot that one of the marked crates on his truck contained three rifles.
In the cab of the truck, inspectors found a list of household items that they said included rifles and pistols. Eller said that was a sheet that had become separated from the manifest when he put the shipment onto a storage trailer in Chicago.
Inspectors found a loaded handgun in a box labeled "kitchen." The load being transported for Howard Brent Hewes also included loaded rifles, more handguns, 4,300 rounds of ammunition, smoke grenades and an antitank-rocket launcher, which appeared to be inoperative.
"All movers are at the mercy of the honesty of their clients," Eller said. "What am I supposed to do? 'Nice job packing those 100 boxes. Now open them up so I can see what's inside' "?
Hewes, 39, a former military man, lost his arsenal, at least temporarily. But he faces no charges because he wasn't there.
"To our knowledge, he did not break any laws" in Canada, said Heather Russell, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Eller, on the other hand, has an Oct. 16 court date that could result in huge fines and a long prison sentence. He was freed on $5,000 Canadian bail and was able to return to the United States with his rig, minus the confiscated weapons.
He faces Customs charges including smuggling, making false statements, failing to report imported goods and possessing unlawful imported goods. Each count carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $50,000 fine. In addition, he is charged with importing prohibited and restricted weapons and unsafe storage of firearms.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis said that the incident "is under active investigation" in both countries but that neither Eller nor Hewes has been charged in the United States.
Eller, who lives with his wife, Leslie, 39, and their 3-year-old daughter, Hannah, on Leech Lake, says he's an avid fisherman but hasn't had much use for guns.
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