A search warrant executed last December in Red Deer County has been tied to a complicated investigation and two arrests this week related to large-scale production of fentanyl pills.
That search was carried out at a business in the county by police authorities who seized four barrels containing 100 kgs of N-phenethylpiperidinone (NPP), used to make fentanyl. The barrels were originally from China and had come to the attention of the Canada Border Services Agency in October at Edmonton International Airport.
On Thursday, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), announced in Edmonton it had seized 100 kilograms of NPP. Police said it was enough theoretically to make 38 million fentanyl pills.
In 2015, 274 people in Alberta died from fentanyl overdoses. So far this year at least 69 people have died in the province. In Red Deer, in the first three months of this year, there have been seven recorded fentanyl deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
ALERT also seized four kilograms of W-18 powder, and 3,200 fentanyl pills containing highly toxic W-18.
Two Edmonton residents were arrested on Wednesday and have been charged in connection with investigation, ALERT stated in a release.
Project Alchemy was a nine-month ALERT investigation that began last October when the Canada Border Services Agency officers intercepted the 100 kilograms of NPP. The powder was contained in four barrels and originated in China. Analysis later revealed it was NPP, which is not regulated in Canada.
The NPP was not seized but the CBSA referred the seizure to ALERT, which conducted a follow-up investigation.
ALERT made the investigation its highest priority given the public safety ramifications. On Dec. 9, search warrants were conducted simultaneously at the Red Deer County business, an Edmonton home, and a suspected fentanyl lab in Leduc County.
A number of things were seized from the Leduc County rural residence including W-18, NPP, caffeine powder used as a binding agent, 3,200 fentanyl pills; 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 10 litres of gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a pill press, powder mixer and five vehicles.
The fentanyl pills seized in Leduc County were white and had similar markings to a Percocet pill. The pills were confirmed as fentanyl after initial lab analysis, but only recently did further testing reveal that the pills also contained W-18.
ALERT issued a public notification concerning the W-18 powder seizure on April 20.
The search warrant at the southeast Edmonton home of the accused resulted in the seizure of chemicals used in the production of MDMA, firearms, and cash. The seizure included two kgs of benzylpiperazine (BZP), two kgs of trifluoromethylphenylpiperazinem (TFMPP); a loaded shotgun, semi-automatic rifle, various ammunition and two prohibited gun magazines and $8,500 cash.
Dean Clayton Abbott, 41, and Shavon Carlene Wenger, 32, have been jointly charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking; possession of proceeds of crime; possession of a firearm without a licence; storage of a firearm contrary to regulation; possessing a prohibited device without a licence; and careless storage of a prohibited device.
Abbott also faces the additional charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking; possession of proceeds of crime; and possession of stolen property.
ALERT is a compilation of law enforcement resources tackling serious and organized crime. Members include Alberta Sheriffs, Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Lethbridge Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, and RCMP.