A nine-month drug investigation called Project Alchemy has led to the seizure of enough precursor chemicals to produce a theoretical yield of 38 million fentanyl pills, police say.

Two Edmonton residents now face numerous charges in the case.

The lengthy investigation began in October 2015, when Canada Border Services Agency officers at Edmonton International Airport intercepted 100 kilograms of a fentanyl precursor chemical called N-phenethylpiperidinone.

The NPP powder was found in four barrels that originated in China.

ALERT took over the case. In December 2015, police executed search warrants at an Edmonton home, a Red Deer County business, and a suspected fentanyl lab in rural Leduc County.

The search in Leduc County resulted in the seizure of:

  • four kilograms of an unknown powder, later determined to be W-18;
  • 1.5 kilograms of N-phenethylpiperidinone (NPP);
  • 46 kilograms of caffeine powder used as a binding agent;
  • 3,200 fentanyl pills;
  • 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine;
  • 10 litres of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB, commonly called the date rape drug)
  • pill press and powder mixer, and;
  • five vehicles.

The fentanyl pills seized in Leduc County were white and had similar markings to Percocet pills, police said. The pills were confirmed as fentanyl after initial lab analysis, but recent further tests showed the pills also contained W-18.

Fentanyl, an opioid pain killer said to be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, was linked to 274 deaths in Alberta last year.

W-18 is a synthetic opioid with no known clinical use. It is considered to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, or about 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

The search of a southeast Edmonton home resulted in the seizure of:

  • two kilograms of benzylpiperazine (a drug similar to amphetamine);
  • two kilograms of trifluoromethylphenylpiperazinem (sold on the streets as a drug called ecstasy);
  • a loaded shotgun;
  • a Ruger SR22 semi-automatic rifle;
  • ammunition and two prohibited magazines and;
  • $8,500 cash proceeds of crime.

On Wednesday, police arrested two Edmonton residents.

Dean Clayton Abbott, 41, and Shavon Carlene Wenger, 32, have been charged with:

  • two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking;
  • two counts of possession of proceeds of crime;
  • possession of a firearm without a license;
  • storage of a firearms contrary to regulation;
  • possessing a firearm without a license;
  • storing a firearm contrary to regulation;
  • possessing a prohibited device without a license;
  • careless storage of a prohibited device.

Abbott has also been charged with:

  • two additional counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking;
  • four additional counts of possession of proceeds of crime, and;
  • one additional count of possession of stolen property.