Two Burlington women, Milton man among 22 charged in $10 million drug trafficking ring

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Published July 16, 2021 at 3:57 pm

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Two Burlington women and a Milton man are among the 22 people facing serious charges after a 15-month long police investigation into GTA-based organized crime groups.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said the crime group has been importing high volumes of cocaine into the country for the purpose of trafficking, as well as participating in other criminal activities.

Project SOUTHAM began in March of 2020 after police say investigators became aware of the importation of cocaine.

The project involved the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB) and Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau (POIB), along with York Regional Police (YRP) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Police say they were able to identify two main groups, each consisting of individuals working together to facilitate the sale of cocaine for financial benefit and both capable of orchestrating international importation of cocaine: 

  • An organized crime group responsible for importing and trafficking cocaine from Colombia, concealed in textiles. They would then establish a clandestine laboratory to process the cocaine into a sellable state.
  • An organized crime group responsible for conspiring to import cocaine from the Caribbean. This organized crime group also conspired to export illicit cannabis from Canada to the United States.

The investigative team, with the assistance of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), seized a total of 86 kilograms of cocaine attempting to be imported on aircrafts from the Caribbean.

On July 7, 2021, police executed 44 search warrants at 25 locations in Toronto, Innisfil, Mississauga, Oakville, Vaughan, Thornhill, Brampton and Ancaster, as well as businesses in Etobicoke, Vaughan, Hamilton, and Mississauga.

Two Burlington women, both 35-years-old, and a 56-year-old Milton man are among those charged.

As a result of this investigation, police seized:

  • 92 kilograms of cocaine;
  • 1 kilogram of methamphetamine;
  • 249 kilograms of illicit cannabis, 100’s of bags of illicit cannabis edibles & 56 grams hash;
  • 1.3 kilograms of psilocybin;
  • 21 litres of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB);
  • 255 grams of ketamine;
  • 255 grams of MDMA;
  • 980 oxycodone pills;
  • 1 kilogram of a cutting agent;
  • A 9mm handgun;
  • 1 silver bar, approximate value of $2,600;
  • $372,020 in Canadian currency;
  • $7,620 in US currency;
  • A cryptocurrency hardware wallet containing cryptocurrency; and
  • 7 vehicles as offence-related property.

The drugs seized in this investigation, police say, have an estimated street-value of nearly $10 million.

“Despite restrictions at our borders and despite an ongoing global pandemic, organized crime continues to show blatant disregard for the law,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Chuck Cox, Provincial Commander, Investigations and Organized Crime. “Project SOUTHAM has displayed the number of varying commodities and illegal activities that these organized crime groups are involved in – from cocaine to cannabis, and other offences including phishing and mortgage fraud.

“The tentacles of organized crime expand across our province, our country and into other countries. We will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who threatens the safety of our communities and we will continue to effectively work with our partner agencies to do so.”

A total of 22 people have been charged with 139 offences. The remaining 13 were released and are scheduled to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket on August 11, 2021.

Police say the clandestine laboratory contained chemicals and apparatus essential to facilitating the extraction process to allow cocaine to be converted into a sellable state.

During the investigation, police identified an individual who participated in both organized crime groups and was also involved in two other drug trafficking networks. The investigative team discovered this individual was operating an illegal steroid business as well as a clandestine laboratory producing GHB.

“We know violence follows organized crime. Where there is illicit income, there is often violence to protect that income,” said Brian Bigras, Deputy Chief of Investigations, York Regional Police. “Regardless of the organized crime group, or where they are based, their tentacles can be found in our communities and in our neighbourhoods, jeopardizing community safety.

“We recognize the only way to combat the illegal operations of these groups is by working together and our collective goal is keeping our citizens safe. Rest assured, we will not be deterred from that goal.”

 

 

OPP PHOTO

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