A franchise of Jamaica's infamous "Shower Posse" has entrenched itself in Toronto, dealing drugs and fuelling internecine gang warfare, according to police who arrested 78 people and seized almost 20 guns in Ontario yesterday.
More than 1,000 police officers from several forces rounded up members of a crime network that allegedly extends from Windsor to Sault Ste. Marie, and even back to Caribbean islands.
Big-fish suspects and small ones were caught in the mix, but at the centre, however, are dozens of alleged Toronto gangsters. At their centre, about a dozen alleged members of the shadowy Shower Posse.
These police allegations are significant -- it is akin to the authorities announcing that the Cosa Nostra or New York's Gambino crime family had been operating behind the scenes for years in Canada's largest city, selling bulk drugs to the lesser gangsters, who settle scores and deal drugs in public.
From its roots in 1980s Jamaica -- the gang is said to have been affiliated with a politician who promised to "shower" voters with blessings -- the Shower Posse has since emerged as a notoriously violent transnational drug syndicate.
Police say the alleged Toronto members of the Shower Posse brokered the sale of drugs shipped through the Caribbean to feuding Toronto street gangs, notably the Five Point Generalz and the Falstaff Crips.
A spate of shootings involving feuding gangsters in northwest Toronto drew police interest last August, prompting the nine-month investigation dubbed Project Corral. Several weeks ago, three people -- including one with a "cop killer" handgun -- were arrested in the Dominican Republic preparing to ship more than 70 kilograms of cocaine to Toronto, police say.
These investigative avenues led, ultimately, to the Shower Posse.
"They're not there front and centre, but they're organized and they've been around a long time," said Staff Inspector Mike Earl, at a news conference.
He said the Toronto Police Service has never been able to get at the local members of the Shower Posse as they have in the past 24 hours, even though the gang has been understood to have been operating in the city for years.
He said he would not speak to how the members operated or how police cracked the network. But he did say, "somebody who has been around for 30 years is a lot smarter than someone who's been around for two."
Charges are to be announced soon. Police say they seized more than $30,000 cash, $10,000 in casino cheques, drugs of all kinds and even diamonds and body armour during the raids.
No shots were fired during the roundups.
Police say two recent Toronto homicides are linked to the network cracked during the investigation, but won't say if charges are pending.
Prosecutors plan to charge the most serious suspects as organized crime members, a designation that would mean stiff sentences if there are convictions.
Some accused arrested in other cities, including Ottawa and Sault Ste. Marie, are now being transported to Toronto.