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Over $2M in drugs, cash seized after drug ‘pipeline’ disrupted: ALERT

Click to play video 'ALERT on the magnitude of this ‘significant seizure’' ALERT on the magnitude of this ‘significant seizure’
WATCH ABOVE: Project Elder did not result in the largest seizure ALERT has seen, but officials say its reach was large and these arrests are significant – Jun 12, 2019

An investigation into the drug trade in Alberta and British Columbia has resulted in more than $2 million in drugs and cash being seized and 12 suspects being arrested, police said on Wednesday.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams‘ Project Elder was a two-year investigation that “probed interprovincial, wholesale drug distribution,” according to the news release.

READ MORE: 15 charges laid after $144K worth of cocaine recovered in Edmonton

ALERT believes a high volume of drugs were being shipped from B.C. to Alberta using a “complex scheme” that utilized vehicles with hidden compartments to Edmonton and Calgary, with other distribution points across Alberta.

“Organized crime groups don’t respect borders, which is why we need agencies like ALERT that work with law enforcement partners in other jurisdictions to investigate, disrupt and dismantle serious criminal activity such as organized crime and illegal drug trafficking,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer said.

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READ MORE: Guns, $200K worth of drugs seized in northern Alberta bust

Twelve people were arrested on June 5 in Edmonton, Calgary, Innnisfail and Vancouver after police searched two homes, two businesses and multiple vehicles.

Watch below: Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team talks about arresting the “head of the snake” and what message the arrest and charges send to others in the drug trade.

Click to play video 'ALERT on this particular organized crime group' ALERT on this particular organized crime group
ALERT on this particular organized crime group – Jun 12, 2019

An estimated $1.5 million worth of drugs were seized. Cash and vehicles were also seized.

  • 9.3 kilograms of cocaine
  • 17.2 kilograms of a cocaine buffing agent
  • 6.0 kilograms of methamphetamine
  • 684 grams of fentanyl powder
  • $514,335 cash
  • a handgun with suppressor and expanded magazine
  • 5 vehicles with hidden compartments

ALERT couldn’t speculate how many shipments the organization had sent from B.C. to Alberta, Staff Sgt. Carson Creaser could only say they believed there were many loads.

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“Our allegation is that this is one shipment that we interdicted that formed the basis of our charges, however this was a scheme that was ongoing over a period of time,” he said. “The volume of drugs that was shipped into our provinces and our communities was substantially more.”

Watch below: After a two-year investigation, police say they have cut off a drug pipeline from British Columbia to Alberta. Kendra Slugoski reports.

Click to play video 'Over $2 million in drugs, cash seized after Western Canada drug ‘pipeline’ disrupted' Over $2 million in drugs, cash seized after Western Canada drug ‘pipeline’ disrupted
Over $2 million in drugs, cash seized after Western Canada drug ‘pipeline’ disrupted – Jun 12, 2019

The investigation began in March 2017 when police targeted an Edmonton-based drug trafficking group. The scope of that initial investigation was expanded and police were able to identify the person they believe was the group’s supplier.

A hidden compartment in a vehicle ALERT says was used to transport drugs to Edmonton and Calgary. Supplied: ALERT
ALERT said a two-year investigation cut off a drug pipeline between British Columbia and Alberta. More than $2 million in drugs and cash was seized and a dozen suspects have been arrested. June 12, 2019. Morris Gamblin, Global News
ALERT said a two-year investigation cut off a drug pipeline between British Columbia and Alberta. More than $2 million in drugs and cash was seized and a dozen suspects have been arrested. June 12, 2019. Morris Gamblin, Global News
ALERT said a two-year investigation cut off a drug pipeline between British Columbia and Alberta. More than $2 million in drugs and cash was seized and a dozen suspects have been arrested. June 12, 2019. Morris Gamblin, Global News
ALERT said a two-year investigation cut off a drug pipeline between British Columbia and Alberta. More than $2 million in drugs and cash was seized and a dozen suspects have been arrested. June 12, 2019. Morris Gamblin, Global News
ALERT said a two-year investigation cut off a drug pipeline between British Columbia and Alberta. More than $2 million in drugs and cash was seized and a dozen suspects have been arrested. June 12, 2019. Morris Gamblin, Global News

Police allege that Neil Kravets, 28, was the coordinator who provided the supply of drugs from B.C. and oversaw the group’s activities. The North Vancouver man is now facing a number of charges, including instructing a criminal organization.

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“In this particular organized crime group, we believe that Mr. Kravets was the head of the snake and we have disrupted and significantly impacted their ability to operate,” Creaser said. “The significance of arresting and charging a target like Mr. Kravets puts the rest of the high-end drug dealers in this province on notice, for sure.”

Watch below: In a news conference in Edmonton on June 12, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team officials name the man they believe was a leader in this criminal organization.

Click to play video 'ALERT charges man police believe led illegal drug activities' ALERT charges man police believe led illegal drug activities
ALERT charges man police believe led illegal drug activities – Jun 12, 2019

READ MORE: 8 people facing 51 charges in Surrey drug trafficking bust, including 2 teens

Another 12 people are facing a total of 59 charges. Police said they were part of Kravets’ alleged drug network and are facing a range of charges related to participating in a criminal organization and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl.

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“We are fulfilling our mandate in targeting the heads of these organizations and holding these people accountable,” Creaser said. “They are becoming rich and living very comfortable lifestyles.

“These are not your street level addicts that are dealing drugs to feed their own habit; these are sophisticated business people who are enriching themselves at the expense of our communities.”

WATCH BELOW: ALERT police officials discuss how it felt to fulfill its mandate and make these kinds of arrests.

Click to play video '‘Gratifying’ for ALERT officers to seize drugs, make arrests' ‘Gratifying’ for ALERT officers to seize drugs, make arrests
‘Gratifying’ for ALERT officers to seize drugs, make arrests – Jun 12, 2019

Charged are:

  • Neil Kravets, 28, from North Vancouver
  • Brandon Worsley, 29, from Edmonton
  • Joseph Nicholson, 29, from Airdrie
  • Brandon Brown, 22, from Edmonton
  • Richard Sansoucy, 56, from Edmonton
  • Gregory Ewald, 44, from Edmonton
  • Fayiz Moghrabi, 28, from Vancouver
  • Richard Chalifoux, 37, from Edmonton
  • Suk Han, 35, from Vancouver
  • Andy Estrada, 29, from Edmonton
  • Daniel Estrada Sr., 58, from Edmonton
  • Moshe Banin, 31, from Edmonton

“This was a highly sophisticated criminal organization that operated like a business,” Creaser said. “This pipeline has been severely disrupted and has stopped the flow of drugs into Alberta communities.”

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ALERT said that Project Elder “relied heavily” on other police units, including the Edmonton Police Service, CFSEU-BC, North Vancouver RCMP, RCMP E Division, Innisfail RCMP, RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime and Alberta Sheriffs surveillance team.