19 charged in cross-country 'Project Drill' raids
More than 200 police officers from Manitoba, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario arrested more than a dozen people across North America Wednesday in a series of raids targeting organized crime.
Arrest warrants were issued Wednesday morningfor 18 people and search warrants were executed on nine buildings in Manitoba, including the Hells Angels clubhouse in Winnipeg, said Winnipeg police.
Thirteen people were taken into custody, while warrants are outstanding for five more.
The 18 face charges related to drug trafficking, firearms importation and organized crime. Several of the people charged aremembers of the Hells Angels and their associates, police said.Nine of them are Manitobans.
A Kelowna, B.C., man was also arrested inthe national crackdown. The35-year-old was arrested by RCMPWednesday morning as he was putting up Christmas lights on the large mansion he rents. Police allege the manis a member of the Kelowna Hells Angels, a new chapter that was sanctioned earlier this year.
He wascharged with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and possessing the proceeds of crime, said police.
Alleged Hells Angels boss nabbed
Winnipeg Police Const. Jason Michalyshen stopped short of hailing the raids as a success, but made it clear that they have caused a dentin Manitoba's drug trade.
Police are still keeping some details about theyear-long investigationthat led to Wednesday's bustsunder wraps, Michalyshen said.
"It's sensitive, and it involves a lot of individuals, and we want to be careful that what information we do release doesn't affect any other efforts by agencies throughout Canada," he said.
Among those arrested in Manitoba is Dale Donovan, whom police believe is the current president of the Manitoba chapter of the Hells Angels.
The man believed to be the previous president of the club, Ernie Dew, is on trial for charges laid duringa similar joint task force effort, Project Defence, which concluded more than a year ago with the arrest of 13 people.
Much of the evidence intheProject Defence cases centred around Franco Atanasovic, a civilian agent for the police who wore recording devices during meetings with suspected criminal targets.Atanasovic is now under witness protection.
The latest investigation,dubbed "Project Drill," focused on "high-level members of organized crime and drug trafficking cells" in Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta and B.C., police said.
During their investigation, police seized cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as firearms that were illegally imported from the United States, investigators said.
Project Drill also included an investigation into a conspiracy to commit murder that resulted in charges against three people.
Police said their investigation isn't over, and additional arrests and charges are expected.