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Police seize handguns, drugs in alleged Ontario, U.S. criminal takedown

TORONTO — Police in Ontario say they have taken down a criminal network they allege trafficked cocaine and fentanyl and smuggled guns into Canada from the U.S. 

York Regional Police said a joint operation with a number of other Ontario police forces, along with Canadian and U.S. border agents, ended with the arrest of 22 people on more than 400 charges. 

“This investigation has dismantled a sophisticated criminal network involved in the distribution of cocaine, fentanyl and other controlled substances,” York Regional Police Insp. Ahmad Salhia said at a press conference Wednesday. 

“We identified a criminal pipeline responsible for the flow of illicit firearms coming into Canada from the United States, firearms that we believe were destined to the hands of violent gang members and violent offenders.” 

Police said the 10-month operation dubbed Project Monarch ended on July 28 when police executed warrants in Brampton, Toronto and London, Ont. 

Investigators said they seized 27 handguns and more than 300 rounds of ammunition. 

Salhia said a number of those guns had their serial numbers “obliterated” or “altered,'' which he called a common tactic to prevent police from tracing illicit firearms. 

Police said they traced 20 of the 27 guns to the U.S., including Florida, Ohio and Michigan. Salhia said police think the other seven guns also came from the U.S. 

Police said they also seized more than 1.3-million dollars worth of drugs, including nine kilograms of cocaine and 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl. 

Salhia said police uncovered "large quantities” of seized fentanyl pressed into pills shaped like cars and butterflies. 

The investigation began in October 2021 when York Regional Police started to look into a person they suspected was trafficking drugs, the force said.

As the investigation continued, police said they identified suspects in London and Brampton connected to the trafficking in cocaine, fentanyl and guns. 

From there, police formed the joint-forces operation, which included investigators from York Regional Police, OPP, Peel Regional Police, London Police Service, U.S. Homeland Security, and Canada Border Services Agency.

Along with guns and drugs, investigators said they seized C$155,242, US$9,000 and five vehicles.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022. 

The Canadian Press

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