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Investigation into Alberta-B.C. drug trafficking network ends in $1M bust, 6 arrests : ALERT

WATCH ABOVE: ALERT CEO Chad Coles said the Project Embrace drug seizure and arrests will have a significant impact in combating organized crime in smaller communities throughout the province.

Six people from Alberta and British Columbia have been charged following an investigation into a suspected drug trafficking network between the two provinces.

The nine-month investigation dubbed “Project Embrace” started in October 2018 after Bonnyville RCMP developed “criminal intelligence” about drug trafficking taking place in the area.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams said in a media release Thursday morning.

Watch below: After a nine-month investigation, police have arrested and charged 14 people with drug-related offences. As Sarah Kraus reports, they also seized over $1 million in drugs and cash.

Investigation into Alberta-B.C. drug trafficking network ends in $1M bust
Investigation into Alberta-B.C. drug trafficking network ends in $1M bust

Officers said evidence gathered through the investigation suggested an Edmonton-based group coordinated the supply of drugs from B.C.

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ALERT alleges the group then facilitated distribution in Alberta, specifically in Bonnyville, Lloydminster, St. Paul, Cold Lake, Little Smoky and Frog Lake.

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

Investigators allege a 29-year-old Edmonton man was at the centre of the Edmonton group, which ALERT said included family members. The Edmonton man allegedly conspired with two B.C.-based men to import drugs to Alberta, ALERT said.

Four Edmonton homes and two Vancouver apartments were searched. More than six kilograms of cocaine, two kilograms of meth and 18 kilograms of a cocaine buffing agent were seized, along with more than $342,000 cash and a 2007 Volvo XC90 with a hidden mechanized compartment.

Watch below: In January 2017, Edmonton police demonstrated how sophisticated hidden compartments can be inside vehicles

Edmonton police showcase hidden compartment found in truck during drug investigation
Edmonton police showcase hidden compartment found in truck during drug investigation

The following people have been charged with a number of offences, including conspiracy to traffic drugs:

  • Matthew Castle, 29, from Edmonton
  • Terri Lynn Castle, 50, from Edmonton
  • Christian Castle-Wasson, 18, from Edmonton
  • David Davinder Lally, 40, from Vancouver
  • Jacob Fralin, 32, from Vancouver
  • Ryan Rautiainen, 26, from Lloydminster

ALERT said the majority of the arrests were made in June.

The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash.
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash. Eric Beck, Global News
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash.
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash. Eric Beck, Global News
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash.
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash. Eric Beck, Global News
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash.
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash. Eric Beck, Global News
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash.
The nine-month investigation dubbed "Project Embrace" resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million worth of drugs and cash. Eric Beck, Global News

Members of the RCMP and ALERT called the seizure and arrests significant.

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“This would be very significant,” ALERT CEO Chad Coles said Thursday. “I think you have to keep in mind that when we’re talking about smaller communities throughout Alberta, the impact of these types of results are amplified.”

“Although it’s not a very visible crime for the general public to witness or to see, drug trafficking can have a very devastating effect on the community,” Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke with the Bonnyville RCMP said.

“Drugs are often the peripheral, underlying cause for other offences taking place in the community like break and enters, vehicle thefts and other property-related crimes. Individuals will often steal anything and everything they can get their hands on in an effort to support their addiction.”

Watch below: Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke with the Bonnyville RCMP explains how the investigation started and the impact it will have on combating organized crime in the province.

Drugs often the underlying cause for other crimes in a community: RCMP
Drugs often the underlying cause for other crimes in a community: RCMP

In conjunction with this investigation, Bonnyville RCMP charged the following people from the eastern Alberta town with multiple counts of drug trafficking:

  • Charlie Houle, 24
  • Brent Coell, 18
  • Rayden Hill, 22
  • Michael Pownall, 36
  • Britney Coulombe, 27
  • Wayne Friesen, 27
  • Tyanna John, 21
  • Dustin Gellerman, 27

Project Embrace was a joint investigation between ALERT Edmonton’s organized crime team, B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and Bonnyville RCMP.

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

A number of other police agencies were also involved, including the Edmonton Police Service, Vancouver Police Department, RCMP K-Division, Kamloops RCMP, Lloydminster RCMP, Cold Lake RCMP, Elk Point RCMP, Kitscoty RCMP and St. Paul RCMP.