drug trafficking

Drug trafficking probe- 15 people facing 195 charges

Fifteen people from across Ontario face a combined 195 charges after an investigation into an alleged drug trafficking network involving members and associates of motorcycle gangs, provincial police said Wednesday.

The operation targeted the Hells Angels Nomads, the Red Devils, and the Hooligans motorcycle clubs and found that several people linked to the groups were allegedly involved in the trafficking of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine throughout the Niagara, Sudbury and Ottawa areas, police said.

drug trafficking
Weapons, drugs and cash seized in an arrest are shown in an OPP handout photo. Police say 15 people from across Ontario face a combined 195 charges after a drug trafficking investigation involving members and associates of motorcycle gangs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-OPP MANDATORY CREDIT

Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Bryan MacKillop said those arrested through the investigation, which was dubbed Project Skylark, had a wide range of influence.

“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are associated to other forms of organized crime across this country,” he told reporters during a news conference in Niagara Falls, Ont. 

“It’s the network they utilize to be able to peddle their goods that’s so important, and having disabled and disrupted this particular network will have a significant impact on the drug trade in Ontario.”

The 15 arrested are residents of the Niagara Region, Sudbury and Ottawa, police said. At least six were identified by MacKillop as motorcycle gang members.

The charges against them include drug trafficking, possession of unauthorized firearms and ammunition, and possession for the purpose of trafficking, as well as several counts of human trafficking, police said.

“Their very presence in our communities causes harm, victimization and impacts our fundamental sense of safety and security,” MacKillop alleged. “They participate in criminal activities such as fraud, drug trafficking, assault, intimidation and murder and they do this for nothing more than profit.”

The investigation — which was a joint effort involving the provincial force as well as police services in Niagara, Sudbury, Ottawa and Hamilton — stretched over 14 months.

Officers executed 18 search warrants last week at locations in the Niagara Region, Sudbury, Ottawa and Algoma District, Ont., police said.

Among the items seized were 12.5 kilograms each of cocaine and cannabis, 1,400 packages of cannabis edibles, hundreds of fentanyl patches and 2,000 tablets of meth, authorities said.

Investigators said they also seized 11 firearms and 700 rounds of ammunition, $75,000 in Canadian currency, jewelry and multiple vehicles including three motorcycles, a Maserati and a Mercedes.

The accused have been held in custody since their arrests. Police said their investigation is ongoing.

Emerald Bensadoun, The Canadian Press