TORONTO — A sophisticated crime group that was allegedly smuggling bricks of pure cocaine across the U.S.-Canada border has been busted following a months-long investigation, Toronto police said Monday.
Drug squad Insp. Don Belanger said the force, with the assistance of Canada Border Services Agency, has seized 61 kilograms of pure cocaine and arrested four men, while Canada-wide arrest warrants have been issued for two others.
“It is rare to seize this quantity of cocaine in a single investigation,” Belanger said. “Once…diluted, dealers would have ultimately turned these 61 kilos of pure cocaine into a far greater quantity of lower grade cocaine mixed with any number of cheaper additives.”
Belanger said police launched the probe — dubbed Project Corredor — in the fall of 2019 when they received information that a group of men based in Toronto were smuggling cocaine across an unnamed land-border crossing.
Once in Ontario, the cocaine would be stashed in condominiums and houses then distributed to mid-level dealers who in turn would dish it out to street-level dealers, Belanger said.
“It is our belief that collectively this crime group has the capacity to make millions in profits off the sale of cocaine,” he said.
Beginning in January, drug squad investigators began raiding homes as they executed search warrants, Belanger said. They seized 61 one-kilogram bricks of cocaine — 20 bricks inside locked boxes in one condominium in North York, 36 bricks in another condo nearby, and five more at another house in a residential neighbourhood.
He said officers also seized C$210,000, US$14,000, and 30,000 euros along with four vehicles and a “significant quantity of luxury jewelry.”
“The amount of cocaine and cash seized in this investigation speaks to the level of sophistication of this group,” Belanger said.
“They are not street-level, or mid-level drug dealers, we allege they are highly organized and for a lack of a better term, professional cocaine distributors.”
Belanger said the force believes the group has links to a Mexican cartel.
“The extent of the link to a cartel continues to be a focus of the investigation,” Belanger told The Canadian Press.
Three Toronto men — English, 39, David Bergman, 48, and Ali Baek, 52, — face charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine and possession of proceeds of crime.
Ardeshir Omanian, 57, of Toronto, faces charges of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and possession of the proceeds of crime.
All four were released from custody, Belanger said, and are due in court in mid-June.
Toronto police say Andrew Wilson, 47, and Alan Jones-Smith, 30, both of Toronto, are wanted for drug-trafficking-related charges.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2020.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press