Drug bust at Markerville property prompted one of largest searches in recent memory

Police have released more details on a drug trafficking investigation that led to more than 100 officers searching a 130-acre property near Markerville on April 15.

Police have released more details on a drug trafficking investigation that led to more than 100 officers searching a 130-acre property near Markerville on April 15.

More than 150 items were seized, including drugs, drug paraphernalia, stolen vehicles, firearms, explosives and weapons.

Police have not put a value on the seized items because most of the items are still being processed.

At a Red Deer news briefing on Wednesday, Sylvan Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Gary Rhodes called it one of the largest searches in recent memory in Alberta. Rhodes did not go into specifics because the matter is before the courts and the investigation is ongoing.

But he said there was clearly “criminal activity” happening on the property.

“Anytime we can get drugs and ammunition off the streets, we are putting a dent in criminal networks,” said Rhodes.

After nearly 11 hours on the property, RCMP seized a variety of items, including shotguns, bullets, steroids, heroin, cocaine, a dirt bike, a Mercedes and other large-scale stolen property. One firearm had been stolen from a break and enter in a Red Deer home in December 2014.

Several rail torpedoes, a small explosive charge that is meant to be fastened to rails to act as a warning for trains to stop by exploding with a loud bang, were also seized. The devices are no longer in service.

The Edmonton-based Explosives Disposal Unit removed the old explosives without incident.

Police began looking into happenings on the property in October 2014, after receiving numerous complaints of suspicious behavior, noise and vehicles travelling on the property at all hours.

The acreage, about 32 km southwest of Sylvan Lake, can be seen clearly from the road and has more than 50 outbuildings, including sheds, greenhouses, a riding stable, metal containers and quonset buildings.

The investigation was headed by the Priority Crimes Task Force and included RCMP from Blackfalds, Red Deer Innisfail and Sylvan Lake detachments. The Alberta Emergency Response Team, the special tactical operations and police dog services were also part of the operation.

The task force was formed in the fall of 2014 to crack down on property crimes in Central Alberta.

Red Deer RCMP Supt. Scott Tod said the task force has worked out really well and has made an impact on the smaller communities in Central Alberta.

“A lot of these bad guys move out of Red Deer because of the police presence and go to the smaller places,” said Tod. “The (smaller detachments) don’t have the resources to target them. We are able to collectively come together. … It is good for the whole region.”

Tod said the positive spinoffs on surrounding communities re exactly what he envisioned when the task force was formed about five months ago.

Three men and a woman were arrested during the search. Two men were charged and the other two people were released. More charges are pending.

A four-year-old boy was removed from the property and taken into Child Protective Services. He has since been released to his mother.

Michael Alois Schaab, 42, of Markerville appeared in Red Deer provincial court on Wednesday to face 28 charges, including storing explosives in an unsafe manner, storage of firearm in an unsafe manner, possession of weapons obtained by crime and possession of a loaded, restricted firearm.

Gary Daniel Ritchie, 37, of no fixed address, faces two charges of having a prohibited weapon without a licence, possession of firearm while prohibited from doing so and possession of controlled substance. He appears in court at the court management operations counter on Friday.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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