Police sent a strong message that crime doesn’t pay by seizing a $700,000 house in Timberlands, as well as two vehicles, furniture and electronics on Wednesday.
A total of $900,000 worth of “proceeds of crime” were confiscated under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Program. Police said the luxury property at 87 Towers Close in Red Deer was purchased with drug money.
“We seized vehicles they used to to commit crimes and a house purchased with proceeds of crime, and then used to commit further crimes in,” said Const. William Lewadniuk, of the Red Deer RCMP.
He called civil forfeiture “a powerful tool” because it cripples the financial core of a criminal organization.
While Red Deer RCMP officers haven’t often been able to go to such lengths to penalize drug traffickers, property seizures could happen more frequently as RCMP investigators team up with the Property Crimes Task Force and Fraud and Commercial Crimes Section.
“This hasn’t been overly utilized, but you see where it can go. It can be used more often… to get the message out that things don’t end with the drug search warrant,” said Red Deer RCMP Cpl. Bob Schultz.
About $72,000 of furniture and electronics were carried out of the seized residence, a recently-built two-storey home, on Wednesday morning. The goods were loaded into a truck parked in the driveway. Police previously seized a jeep and a truck.
The seizure is linked to a trio of April search warrants that led police to large amounts of drugs and cash. Four people were arrested on April 13 and charged with multiple counts of drug trafficking and weapon possession charges.
Two of these suspects were again arrested in the Towers Close home on Wednesday, and further charged with money laundering and fraud.
They have 45 days to present their case at a Court of Queen’s Bench civil hearing. If their explanation doesn’t fly with the court, the house, vehicles and property will be sold and money put into a Victims’ Retribution Fund. Lewadniuk said it helps victims of crime recoup losses and also provides funding to local non-profits.
Schultz said that a “mountain” of police evidence was found during the April house searches that allowed investigators to follow up and seize property under the forfeiture program.
“I’m proud of the work they’ve done,” said Insp. Heidi Wild, acting officer in charge of the Red Deer City RCMP detachment. She added the investigators went beyond the original drug charges, acting on additional evidence pointing to money laundering and possessing proceeds of crime.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer also thanked the RCMP for their investigation — which resulted from a tip from a city resident who had noticed suspicious activity last fall.
“It’s critically important. (If) neighbours see something, they should say something,” added Veer, who hopes more tips come into the RCMP’s non-emergency complaints line.
She stressed that reducing organized crime in the city is a priority.
Two Red Deer residents, Katherine Estelle Howe, 20, and Matthew Rose, 31, are both charged with laundering the proceeds of crime, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, and fraud over $5,000. Their court dates have not yet been set.
Howe and Rose also face previous drug trafficking, stolen property and firearm charges, linked to the April search warrants.
The two others who were charged with drug possession and trafficking in April are Red Deer brothers Clay Crombie, 21, and Cody James Crombie, 18.