A nine-month drug investigation that initially targeted cocaine dealers swiftly grew into a much wider series of arrests, police said Wednesday, yielding one of the largest hauls of narcotics in years.
Police carried out a series of 29 synchronized early-morning raids on Tuesday in Toronto plus the regions of York, Waterloo and Durham. A total of 38 people face multiple charges, Staff Inspector Randy Franks told a press conference where a smorgasbord of drugs and guns were displayed, together with bulletproof vests and wads of cash, including packets of Mexican pesos.
In all, close to $2.5-million worth of drugs were intercepted, along with 13 firearms, including two fully automatic machine pistols and a sawed-off shotgun. Seven vehicles, roughly $200,000 in cash and almost half a million dollars in other assets were also seized.
The 38 men and women charged did not belong to a single organization, Staff-Insp. Franks said, but rather were mid-level dealers in the different drugs, which would sometimes be sold or traded. Those drugs included high-grade cocaine, heroin, marijuana, MDMA (ecstasy), crystal meth and GHB, sometimes called the date-rape drug.
"These people were dealing at the kilo level of distribution," said Staff Insp. Franks, who is part of the drug squad, now an arm of the Toronto Police Service's organized-crime section,.
The investigation began in September with a tip and was dubbed Project Domo, named for a Japanese cartoon figure of which one of the suspects was particularly fond. It involved more than than 200 police officers from numerous law-enforcement agencies.
All those arrested this week appeared in court Tuesday and face a total of 115 drug- and gun-related charges. One individual is still being sought.
TPS firearms expert Constable Mike Press said the weapons are being tested to see if they can be linked to any other crimes.
Simultaneously but separately, York Regional Police announced that an estimated $20-million worth of marijuana was seized Tuesday in raids that dismantled five big grow-operations.
Eight individuals have been charged in that investigation.