Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Kitchener say 11 people have been charged and $10 million in drugs were seized after a lengthy undercover operation.
“As far as I know, this is the largest fentanyl seizure in powder form by police, specifically in an undercover operation, to date,” Staff-Sgt. Blair Fuhrman said as the Mounties held a news conference at their detachment in Kitchener on Friday morning to announce details of Project O’Woodcraft.
“It’s a significant arrest,” he noted.
Police said that they conducted a series of raids in Hamilton, Toronto, Durham, Brantford and Kitchener which began on Monday and lasted through Thursday.
They said investigators “directly infiltrated several high-level drug trafficking groups” that have allegedly supplied fentanyl and other illicit drugs to the GTA and southwestern Ontario.
“There are four or five different trafficking groups involved,” Fuhrman explained. “Some of them worked together, some of them are independent of the others but this undercover operation was able to infiltrate all of the groups.”
One of those groups was a cocaine importation ring allegedly working out of Toronto Pearson Airport.
Among the 11 charged are two Sunwing Airlines employees working at the airport.
“These employees are charged with attempting to import cocaine and trafficking cocaine,” Chief Supt. Michael LeSage said.
Police could not say exactly how long the cocaine ring had been in operation but it had been for a while.
“I do not specifically know how long but it was an ongoing enterprise and throughout the term of our investigation, which was approximately a year-and-a-half, it was ongoing and had been established prior to that,” Fuhrman said.
Police would not comment on whether the employees were working in the cargo area.
“They were long-term Sunwing employees and that’s all I can really say,” Fuhrman noted.
The Mounties thanked Sunwing Airlines for their assistance during this investigation and said that members of the public were never in any danger.
Sunwing issued a statement to Global News commenting on its involvement in the investigation.
“We can confirm that we have been working closely with RCMP during this investigation,” the statement read. “The safety and security of both our employees and our customers remains our main priority and we have offered our full cooperation to the RCMP to ensure that this matter was brought to a successful conclusion. Given that the investigation is ongoing, we are not in a position to make additional comments at this time.”
While the rings were certainly well-organized, police did not link them to any of the major organizations which the public would be aware of.
“We didn’t tie the fentanyl or any of the drugs specifically to criminal organizations however one would suggest that any trafficking at this level is organized crime,” Fuhrman said.
Police said 10 kilograms of fentanyl were seized, along with 1.3 kilograms of heroin, one kilogram of meth and 30 kilograms of marijuana.
Smaller amounts of carfentanil and cocaine were also seized. Officers also seized $400,000 in cash and three vehicles worth around $170,000.
A Kitchener man named Andrej Marek Krawczyk was identified as one of two Sunwing employees who were arrested.
Police have confirmed that the other Sunwing employee was Gianni Ballestrin, 46, of Mississauga.
Among the 11 people arrested were three from Hamilton, (Derrick Isreal Shand, 42, Brittany Michelle Crozier, 22, and Courtenay Elizabeth Doolittle, 22,), and three from Toronto (Verlon Winston Peters, 36, Michael Brutto, 29, and Jehan Carvalho, 33,) as well as two from Ajax (Clint McInnis, 49, and Jameal McInnis, 20).
The other man who was arrested this week was Tim Adam Lodge of Brantford.
The people who were arrested are facing a host of charges related to illegal drug importation and sales.