Winnipeg police say they have arrested some of the city's high-level drug traffickers in Project Sideshow, a major drug and money-laundering investigation.
Fourteen people face more than 200 charges in total as a result of the 18-month organized crime investigation that targeted the city's drug trade.
Nineteen search warrants were issued on Feb. 5 and the individuals were arrested in Winnipeg and British Columbia, police announced Thursday.
- Winnipeg homes raided as part of drug investigation
- Police seize ATMs, cocaine in organized crime raid
Officers seized cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, marijuana, drug trafficking paraphernalia, various firearms and ammunition, nine vehicles and $301,800 in cash.
Those charged include a 35-year-old man from Port Coquitlam, B.C., and two adults in Vancouver. One woman has addresses in Toronto and Winnipeg, while the other 10 are based in Manitoba.
Staff Sgt. Rob Harding described the individuals who were arrested as high-level drug dealers.
"Their ability to grow and prosper has been crippled by this operation. It also sends a message to other groups out there that we are watching and that we do have the ability to infiltrate their operations and take them down," he told reporters.
"We do have the ability to identify you, and we do have the ability to take down your organization, and we are participating actively with our partner agencies here in Manitoba and across the country to do so."
Millions of dollars worth of drugs found
As part of Project Sideshow, investigators were authorized to intercept communications between the suspects and "covertly observe, photograph and sample their drugs," police stated in a news release.
Police say they found the following during the investigation:
- 92 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $5 million.
- 3½ kilograms of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $192,000.
- 1 kilogram of ecstasy with an estimated street value of $20,000.
- More than $4.3 million in cash from drug sales.
However, police say they believe actual amounts of drugs and cash travelling back and forth are much higher.
Among those who have been arrested are Rayan Dizon, 35, who worked at a barber shop in downtown Winnipeg until recently. He faces 46 drug and weapons-related charges in connection with Project Sideshow.
His former employer told CBC News he had to fire Dizon in late January for being late.
Dizon's girlfriend faces 19 charges that include drug possession and trafficking, CBC News has learned.
ATMs used to launder money, say police
Others who were arrested include Baljinder Singh, 33, and his brother Narinder, along with Oliver Banayos and his sister Carol.
Oliver and Carol Banayos are accused of laundering money using four automated teller machines (ATMs) that were registered in the woman's name.
Investigators allege the proceeds from the drug sales were laundered through the privately owned ATMs, which were located inside Winnipeg businesses. Six ATMs were seized from four locations.
Frank Cormier, a criminology expert at the University of Manitoba, said cash machines are commonly used by organized crime rings to launder money.
"Virtually anybody can go buy a white-label ATM and then … find a place to install it, so you make friends with a bar owner or somebody who does a lot of cash business," he said.
Harding said Project Sideshow was one of the longest and largest investigations city police have undertaken.
"We certainly saw a greater quantity of drugs and cash changing hands throughout the project than compared to other projects," he said
More arrests are expected to be made, according to police.