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$2M in meth, fentanyl, other drugs, illegal guns and cash seized in Red Deer’s largest bust ever: ALERT

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$2M in meth, fentanyl, other drugs and cash seized in Red Deer’s largest bust ever: ALERT
More than $2 million worth of drugs, guns, body armour and cash was seized in Red Deer last month, and officials believe it's the largest drug bust in the history of the central Alberta city – Nov 14, 2023

More than $2 million worth of drugs, guns, body armour and cash was seized in Red Deer and an alleged high-level dealer arrested in what officials believe is the largest drug bust in the history of the central Alberta city.

It was the fourth-largest fentanyl seizure to date by Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) in all of the province, the agency said Tuesday.

“Seizures of this size, especially as it relates to fentanyl, is significant to the community because we’re dealing with wholesale levels of trafficking at this point,” ALERT Insp. Brad Lundeen said during a news conference Tuesday.

ALERT said its organized crime team in Red Deer made the bust on Oct. 19 after a home on the city’s north side was searched.

Red Deer RCMP helped with carrying out the search of the home, the agency said.

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Large amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine were seized, along with nine firearms, ALERT said.

The drugs seized have an estimated street value of $2.2 million and included:
• 6.8 kilograms of fentanyl
• 6.5 kilograms of methamphetamine
• 0.4 kilograms of cocaine
• 1.9 litres of GHB/gamma hydroxybutyrate, also known as the date rape drug
• $17,286 cash

ALERT alleges the suspect in the case was a high-level wholesale drug dealer in the central Alberta city.

“Given the volume of the drugs seized and our knowledge of the investigation, it’s fair to say that the suspect was supplying drugs to street-level dealers in and around Red Deer,” ALERT Insp. Brad Lundeen said.

“So the distribution network would involve likely other dealers within the community who are then also, in turn, retailing those drugs to the streets.”

ALERT didn’t say if the suspect was part of a specific crime group but said he would have been just one cog in a massive, complex wheel.

“Organized crime activities, the drug trafficking distribution network is vast. It’s across the country. So there would obviously be other people at play within his organization.”

Lundeen said like many Alberta communities, Red Deer is no stranger to the pain that comes from fentanyl and methamphetamine abuse.

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“Drug dealers and organized crime prey on the addicted, which in turn fuels other offences such as property crimes, thefts, robberies and other violent offences,” Lundeen said.

Drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and GHB, along with guns and cash seized from a Red Deer home in October show at an Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) news conference on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Global News

“Illicit drugs have done incredible damage in our community,” said Red Deer RCMP Supt. Holly Glassford. “The complexities and problems drugs bring to a community are manifold and only amplify the already challenging circumstances faced by our most vulnerable populations.”

“Solutions for things like homelessness, mental health issues, socioeconomic factors seem to only move further out of reach for those vulnerable people.”

Fentanyl and meth addictions affect the sense of safety for everyone in a community, Lundeen added.

“So when we make a seizure this big, it makes a huge difference to the community and ultimately the surrounding area. The benefit of this seizure will reverberate throughout central Alberta and make our communities safer.”

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At the same time, Lundeen said police are not naive to the fact there seems to be an endless flow of drugs and one seizure, however big, doesn’t completely stem the supply.

“That is a reality. However, to make a seizure like this, to get that off the street, it does have an impact. And it also sends a message to those who are trafficking in these drugs that we’re not going to tolerate that, we’re always going to be looking for those who are involved in that drug trafficking activity.

“We’re looking to get them off the streets and get charges laid because they’re essentially poisoning the communities.”

Drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and GHB, along with guns and cash seized from a Red Deer home in October show at an Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) news conference on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Global News

While the substances found during this latest seizure is on par with what investigators have been uncovering lately, Lundeen said the nature of the drug trade has changed in recent years — organized crime groups are diversifying.

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“That was not common ten years ago — where you would see a mixture of these different drugs at wholesale volumes.

“Typically, organized crime was involved within, say, one commodity historically — but now, it seems that every seizure we’re seeing is involving multiple drugs, multiple options for trafficking.”

Drugs are both being brought into Canada from international destinations, but also being manufactured or cut locally Lundeen said, making reference to fentanyl they seized that had food colouring in it.

“At the gross wholesale levels, you’re seeing international supply happening, but you’re also seeing the manufacturing taking place within the provinces… it’s multifaceted.”

Drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and GHB, along with guns and cash seized from a Red Deer home in October show at an Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) news conference on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Global News

ALERT said it also seized nine firearms: two handguns, four rifles, and three shotguns. Eight of the guns were found loaded and several were sawed-off, had their serial numbers defaced, or were previously reported as stolen.

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ALERT said officers also seized more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition and body armour.

Lundeen said the violence associated with the drug trade is alarming to him, as guns and other weapons are almost always found during seizures.

” These organized crime groups are utilizing violence to protect that industry. Even if we look to the tragic circumstances in Edmonton from last week, where a child was killed in a gang-related shooting — organized crime targeted — the violence is growing and the access to firearms is there as well too.”

On Thursday, Nov. 9, a known high-level drug dealer in Edmonton — 41-year-old Harpreet Uppal — and his 11-year-old son Gavin were gunned down in the parking lot of a gas station in the city’s southern suburbs. As of Tuesday, no arrests have been announced.

Lundeen doesn’t believe there are necessarily more criminals operating in Alberta, but the size of the drug busts and amount of weapons seized has grown.

ALERT said it will also be pursuing civil forfeiture against cash, silver bars, collectable coins, and three high-end electric scooters that were seized from the Red Deer home.

The scooters were allegedly being used during drug trafficking.

One person has been charged. ALERT said Delmond Kroetsch, 43, was arrested after investigators acting on a tip witnessed a suspected drug deal taking place in downtown Red Deer.

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The 43-year-old man’s home in the Fairview neighbourhood was then searched.

“In this case, intelligence was received to the unit, which initiated the investigation and ultimately culminated in the takedown and a search of a residence,” Lundeen said.

The suspect was known to law enforcement, Lundeen said.

ALERT said the suspect illegally owned the guns found in his house, adding he has a lifetime firearms ban stemming from a 2002 investigation in Fort McMurray in which he was convicted of drug trafficking.

Lundeen said gangster and members of organized crime groups are generally committed to that lifestyle, in spite of criminal convictions.

“It’s very common to see throughout their lifetime, throughout our careers as police officers and as investigators, the same people recycle through the system as it relates to drug trafficking and firearms offences,” Lundeen said.

Kroetsch was charged with possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime, and 28 firearms-related offences.

He remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 4.

Red Deer’s previous largest known drug seizure was in March 2019. ALERT said that RCMP-led investigation resulted in the seizure of 1.6 kilograms of cocaine, 1.2 kilograms of fentanyl, and 2.6 kilograms of methamphetamine, amongst other drugs.

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ALERT is an Alberta government organization committed to tackling serious and organized crime, that brings together sophisticated resources from law enforcement agencies across the province such as the RCMP, Edmonton Police Service and Calgary Police Service.

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