Toronto police have seized millions in drugs, guns and vehicles and even a house as a result of an investigation into a “large-scale drug distribution network” in the GTA, Staff Superintendent Myron Demkiw said.
The investigation, dubbed Project Switch, began in February and targeted a single gang that police allege was smuggling heroin and cocaine from the United States to Canada. Police wouldn’t say which gang that was, but said they worked closely with the Asian Organized Crime Task Force as well as the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and local regional police forces.
“These are the people that you don’t see. They are behind the scenes. They are not to be seen and they do excellent, excellent work,” Acting Inspector Steve Watts said.
The seizing of drugs and guns comes as the force is beefing up its efforts to combat gun violence in the city, including the deployment of 200 more officers between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. across the city. To date in 2018, there have been 233 shootings in the city, with 30 fatalities.
Eleven search warrants were executed in two phases: one on June 25, and one on July 17, both in the Toronto area. Lorenzo Lam, David Littledale, Trung Duc Pham, Quynh Vu, Duc Hoang and Myleene Kavalak were arrested and face various possession and trafficking charges. Their ages range from 25 to 35.
One suspect, Joevannie Peart, 34, remains at large.
The people arrested were “at the very least mid- to high-level” operatives within the gang, Acting Insp. Watts said.
In total, police seized $287,000 in cash; 52 kilograms of cocaine, worth $4.1-million on the street; 7.4 kilograms of heroin, worth $1.3-million; three kilograms of MDMA, worth $200,000; nine kilograms of Phenacetin, a non-opioid pain reliever; 2.5 kilograms of hashish oil; 43 kilograms of powdered caffeine, used to cut cocaine; nine handguns; 16 rifles; two crossbows; a press for making ammunition; nine vehicles, including at least two “trap cars” with hidden compartments to store drugs; and one property worth more than $1.3-million.
The drug value estimates were “conservative,” using the lowest street price, Acting Insp. Watts said.
All the guns were legally owned by one person and there is currently no evidence that they were used in any crimes –though that doesn’t mean the person won’t potentially face consequences, Acting Insp. Watts said.
“I will leave it to you to utilize your common sense to say, when you have a 12-gauge shotgun on top of controlled substances, hypothetically, is the purpose to go duck hunting, or is it to protect that product?” he said.
Though most of the drugs came from the United States, police said, they would not comment on where the guns came from. The gun owner is being charged with careless storage of firearms, and will be stripped of their licence if found guilty.