Everybody could see the deadly firepower on the table at Toronto Police Headquarters in full display last week.
What they couldn’t show — seized in massive quantities during Project Kraken — was the 11,033 grams of deadly fentanyl.
“It’s not here because of the risk factor of transporting and displaying it,” Deputy Chief James Ramer explained at a news conference.
Unlike the guns, which can be dangerous in the wrong hands, pure fentanyl can be deadly to the touch.
But make no mistake, this is the drug of organized crime in 2019 and it is an enormous problem.
“The predominant drug trafficked is fentanyl,” Ramer said.
And not just in Toronto.
“It is alleged that members were trafficking fentanyl to communities in Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Peterborough,” Ramer said.
The OPP, RCMP and York Regional Police were all part of the 55 arrests made Thursday, bringing the total during Project Kraken to 73 accused who now face 599 charges.
In Sudbury, three city men have been arrested in connection with Project Kraken. Others from southern Ontario have also been arrested.
In the first incident in Sudbury, Edward Greco, 42, and Eric Rivard, 45, were charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking. Greco was also charged with possession of property obtained by crime. Both men are from Sudbury.
On Wednesday, the police received information that a significant amount of drugs was being transported to Sudbury from the Greater Toronto Area. Shortly before midnight, officers saw the vehicle in question in a parking lot on York Street. Members of the tactical and drug enforcement units approached the vehicle and arrested the two men.
Upon searching the vehicle, officers found more than 176 grams of fentanyl with an approximate street value of $70,600.
In the second incident, which took place Thursday just after 3:45 a.m., members of the drug enforcement and tactical units executed a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act search warrant at a residence on Eyre Street, and located oxycodone and fentanyl, as well as more than $2,700 in cash.
Trevor Poland, 33, of Greater Sudbury was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of property obtained by crime.
The Greater Sudbury Police Service declared Project Kraken a success. In the past two months, officers have seized more than $250,000 worth of drugs and have made several arrests, in addition to Greco, Rivard and Poland.
On May 5, for example, the local drug enforcement unit in Sudbury got word that a large amount of fentanyl was en route to Sudbury from southern Ontario.
From York Street, officers saw a vehicle being operated in a suspicious manner. They decided to investigate.
“Just before 11 p.m. members of the tactical unit approached the vehicle and identified themselves,” the GSPS said Friday. “Upon searching the vehicle, members of the DEU located more than 227 grams of fentanyl and approximately $8,000 in cash. The street value of the drugs seized is close to $79,000.”
A 16-year-old male from Toronto was charged with possession of a schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking; possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000; and breach of recognizance. He cannot be named as he is a young offender.
On June 21, just after 8 p.m. members of the drug enforcement and tactical units executed a search warrant, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, at a hotel on The Kingsway.
They entered a hotel room, and located and arrested a man. While searching the room, detectives found almost 30 grams of fentanyl with a street value of more than $8,600, as well as about $30,000 in cash.
Houssein Hassan, 24, of Toronto was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance and possession of property obtained by crime.
Devon Lewis, 25, and Omaid Rahmani, 22, both from southern Ontario, were charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance after their vehicle was stopped on Highway 69.
“On June 23, the DEU received information that a significant amount of drugs was en route to Sudbury from southern Ontario. Shortly after 7 p.m. detectives located the vehicle travelling on Highway 69 near Whippoorwill Road,” the police said.
Officers with Greater Sudbury Poice attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver tried to flee and struck an unmarked police vehicle. While searching the suspect vehicle, detectives located more than 230 grams of fentanyl, which has a street value of more than $92,000. Officers were able to arrest Lewis and Rahmani without further incident.
The number of people swept up in an operation such as Project Kraken is par for the course. But the kind of drugs being marketed, however, has changed.
What police are finding is fentanyl is everywhere.
Dealers can bring it in from Mexico or China easily and they can mix it into whatever cocktail of narcotic — cocaine, heroin — they want.
“It’s about money,” said Ramer. “It’s all about the cash.”
The 23 guns on the table in Toronto, valued at $84,000, allegedly provided the muscle to sustain the trade that is growing by the day.
Police in Toronto also seized 1,058 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of $116,000, about $92,000 in cash and $250,000 worth of fentanyl.
This is the first time a police operation seized more fentanyl than it did cocaine or heroin — some 10,000 grams more.
This eight-month project has smashed a gang based in Scarborough, which has been investigated for armed robberies and murders in the past.
“Working in collaboration with our partner agencies, Project Kraken has significantly disrupted the criminal operations and the hierarchy of the Chester Le Gang,” said Ramer.
It was good work, but he and everybody else in policing know there are other gangs ready to fill the void. Having those guns and drugs off the street is a positive development. But there is plenty more where that came from.
While police did not bring out the narcotics to show the media, the impact of those drugs on individuals is on display every week — with many overdoses and deaths because of people ingesting a lethal dose of fentanyl either knowingly or unwittingly.
“We call it hot spots,” explained Supt. Steven Watts, of the Organized Crime Enforcement Unit in Toronto. “People mix together narcotics and one person may get a higher level of fentanyl than another person.”
If it happens, you can die.
– with files from The Sudbury Star.