274 illegal guns seized by police in largest-ever weapons bust in Ontario

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Published February 22, 2024 at 12:09 pm

Largest-ever gun bust in Ontario.
OPP speak at a news conference on Thursday. A number of the seized illegal guns are shown.

Sixteen people from Ontario have been charged and 274 illegal guns have been seized in both Canada and the U.S. in what OPP say is the largest-ever weapons bust in the province.

In total, $3.25 million in handguns, assault rifles, other weapons, drugs and cash were recovered through a “complex” police investigation that included undercover operations and law enforcement agencies across southern Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. — including Peel Regional Police and their counterparts in Durham, York, Hamilton and Niagara.

At a news conference this morning, OPP said the illegal and dangerous guns and drugs were incoming from the U.S. and destined for communities across the GTA including Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton and elsewhere.

Those arrested face a total of 279 charges and one additional person, a St. Catharines man, is being sought by police in connection with the alleged illegal operation that’s believed to have stretched from Miami to Buffalo and into southern Ontario.

Of the 274 illegal firearms recovered by police, 106 were seized in Ontario and 168 south of the border.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique described the end result of the police operation as “a significant seizure of dangerous and illegal firearms. Illegal firearms like these are used in violent crimes such as robberies, carjackings, home invasions, intimidation, extortion and homicides.

“Not only do firearms pose a substantial danger to the public; they also pose an imminent risk to the safety of our officers.”

OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns added: “What makes this investigation particularly alarming is not just the quantity of guns, but also the types of weapons seized. This is the largest seizure of handguns and assault-style rifles in the history of this province.”

He noted some of the seized guns are “weapons that have been modified to fire several rounds with a single pull of the trigger.”

Det. Insp. Lee Fulford, of the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, said police were also alarmed by the speed “at which the firearms would be resold after entering” Ontario, the guns changing hands sometimes “within days or hours.”

OPP worked on the nearly year-long operation, dubbed Project Saxom – Dual Approach, with Homeland Security and other agencies in the U.S. in addition to numerous police forces in the GTA, southern Ontario and elsewhere.

The probe began in early 2023 when police began looking into two people who were allegedly seeking to traffic guns in the GTA.

Further investigation revealed several criminal networks in Ontario that were believed to be in on the illegal activity, police said.

Drugs were also part of the police haul, including large amounts of meth and fentanyl in addition to substances believed to be heroin and cocaine.

In total, police said 17 search warrants were executed on Feb. 13-14 across the GTA and in the Niagara region. A gun silencer, 1,700 rounds of ammunition, knives, brass knuckles and $63,000 in Canadian cash were also seized. About $5,000 in U.S. cash was recovered as well.

 

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