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4kg of W-18, thousands of fentanyl pills seized; Edmonton couple charged

WATCH: ALERT S/Sgt. Dave Knibbs talks about how the raids in Edmonton, Leduc County and in Red Deer County in December 2015 resulted in the seizure of several types of drugs and chemicals to make drugs, some guns, and thousands of dollars in cash.

An Edmonton couple is facing dozens of drug and weapons-related charges in connection with a “lengthy and complex fentanyl production investigation,” according to Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).

During a nine-month investigation, officers seized 100 kilograms of the fentanyl precursor N-phenethylpiperidinone (NPP), four kilograms of W-18 powder, and 3,200 fentanyl pills containing W-18, ALERT said. Based on conservative estimates, ALERT said the 100 kilograms of NPP could produce up to 38 million fentanyl pills.

Officials said this is believed to be the largest seizure of the precursor NPP in Canada. NPP is used to make fentanyl and has no other use, authorities said.

“This investigation has saved many lives,” Staff Sgt. Dave Knibbs said.

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Dean Clayton Abbott, 41, and Shavon Carlene Wenger, 32, are facing a total of 27 criminal charges connected to drugs and weapons, ALERT said. The pair was arrested on July 6.

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Watch Below: An Edmonton couple is facing dozens of drug and weapons-related charges in connection with a “lengthy and complex fentanyl production investigation.” Kendra Slugoski has more on “Project Alchemy.”

Edmonton couple charged after 4kg of W-18, thousands of fentanyl pills seized
Edmonton couple charged after 4kg of W-18, thousands of fentanyl pills seized

ALERT said Abbott has a criminal record with his last conviction coming in 2002. Officers said Wenger is his common-law spouse.

“There was a child in the residence but that was not the location where the majority of these substances were seized,” Knibbs said.

The investigation started in October 2015 when Canada Border Services Agency officers at the Edmonton International Airport intercepted 100 kilograms of the fentanyl precursor NPP. The powder was inside four barrels that originated in China.

On Dec. 9, 2015, search warrants were carried out at an Edmonton home, a Red Deer County business and a suspected fentanyl lab in Leduc County, officers said.

Officers wearing what appeared to be hazardous materials suits brought out bags of powder from buildings on an acreage near Beaumont.

READ MORE: Police investigate possible drug lab near Edmonton 

“A large amount of chemicals and powders were seized,” Knibbs said. “This is huge.”

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“We got it before it started, is what we believe,” he added, referring to the actual production of fentanyl.

The province said fentanyl killed 69 people in Alberta in the first few months of 2016.

ALERT said the following items were seized from the Leduc County rural residence:

  • 4 kilograms of an unknown powder, later determined to be W-18;
  • 1.5 kilograms of NPP;
  • 46 kilograms of caffeine powder used as a binding agent;
  • 3,200 fentanyl pills;
  • 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine;
  • 10 litres of gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB);
  • pill press;
  • powder mixer;
  • 5 vehicles.

The fentanyl pills seized in Leduc County were white and had similar markings to a Percocet pill. ALERT said the pills were confirmed to be fentanyl after initial lab analysis. Further tests revealed the pills also contained W-18.

ALERT officers investigate a suspected drug lab Dec. 11, 2015 near Beaumont, Alta.
ALERT officers investigate a suspected drug lab Dec. 11, 2015 near Beaumont, Alta. File/Global News

ALERT said the search warrant at the southeast Edmonton home of the accused resulted in the seizure of chemicals used in the production of MDMA, firearms, and cash:

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  • 2 kilograms of benzylpiperazine (BZP);
  • 2 kilograms of Trifluoromethylphenylpiperazinem (TFMPP);
  • loaded shotgun;
  • Ruger SR22 semi-automatic rifle;
  • various ammunition and 2 prohibited magazines;
  • $8,500 cash proceeds of crime.

ALERT was helped by Edmonton police, Alberta Sheriffs, RCMP, CBSA, Health Canada, Emergency Medical Services, Edmonton Airports Emergency Services, and Leduc County Emergency Services.

Abbott and Wenger have been jointly charged with:

  • possession for the purpose of trafficking (x 2);
  • possession of proceeds of crime (x 2);
  • possession of a firearm without a licence;
  • storage of a firearms contrary to regulation;
  • possessing a firearm without a licence;
  • storing a firearm contrary to regulation;
  • possessing a prohibited device without a licence;
  • careless storage of a prohibited device.

Abbott also faces the additional charges of:

  • possession for the purpose of trafficking (x 2);
  • possession of proceeds of crime (x 4);
  • possession of stolen property.

The drug substances seized would have made 38 million fentanyl pills, ALERT said.

READ MORE: Deadly W-18 powder seized during Edmonton fentanyl drug bust 

W-18 is a form of synthetic opioid and is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, which Alberta Health Services has linked to hundreds of deaths across Alberta. Fentanyl has been said to be 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Watch below: ALERT S/Sgt. Dave Knibbs said Project Alchemy was a complex Fentanyl investigation that was given the highest priority, and resulted in the arrest of a man and a woman.

ALERT Project Alchemy Fentanyl investigation given highest priority
ALERT Project Alchemy Fentanyl investigation given highest priority

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally posted on July 6 and was updated when ALERT released details about the charges on July 7.

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