Three people are facing charges after police in Grande Prairie, Alta., intercepted an alleged deal between a suspected drug dealer and firearms trafficker earlier this month.
On May 13, members of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams‘ Guns and Gangs Unit and Organized Crime Unit arrested the three suspects in the parking lot of a shopping centre in the northern Alberta city.
Police allege the transaction was what’s known as “straw purchasing.” According to police, a straw transaction is one where a person legally allowed to buy guns acquires some weapons, then quietly sells them to someone else who has either been banned from buying guns or who wants to remain anonymous.
During the investigation, police seized four handguns, a rifle, ammo and magazines, body armour, 810 grams of suspected cocaine and $5,665 in cash.
Loriann Vegso, 49, has been charged with firearms trafficking, possession of a firearm for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime.
Dustin Prinz, 23, is facing seven charges, including possession of a firearm for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a loaded restricted firearm and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
Hailey Badger, 22, is facing five charges possession of a firearm for the purpose of trafficking and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
ALERT alleges that Vegso was acting as the “firearms straw purchaser and diverted handguns to the criminal market.” Police also allege that she has purchased 15 guns since April 2019 that were re-sold.
ALERT said Prinz is a suspected drug trafficker and was in the process of acquiring three of the seized handguns.
Police said the fourth gun was found loaded in Badger’s purse.
Since the three were arrested, ALERT said it has recovered another handgun that was allegedly purchased and sold by Vesgo. That gun was seized by High Prairie RCMP as part of a separate drug investigation.
The investigation began in April 2019 and included members of ALERT as well as the RCMP from High Prairie and Grande Prairie.