Check your rear-view mirror, police warn gun dealers after major bust

Ottawa police have arrested 13 people and seized two dozen firearms following a six-month covert investigation led by the force's guns and gangs unit.

'Project Sabotage' nets 24 firearms, 13 arrests in undercover sting

Some of the firearms seized during Project Sabotage are displayed at Ottawa police headquarters Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Ottawa police have arrested 13 people and seized two dozen firearms following a six-month covert investigation led by the force's guns and gangs unit. 

"Project Sabotage" culminated Thursday with the execution of 14 search warrants at addresses across the region. Ottawa police were assisted by Gatineau police, Sûreté du Qué​bec and RCMP.

We targeted specific, prolific violent offenders that are involved in the trafficking of firearms in our community.- Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau

The operation used an undercover police agent who arranged to buy guns in such public places as a downtown bar, a hotel parking lot and a shopping mall, police said Friday.

"The police agent was instrumental, kind of the cornerstone of the investigation," said Staff Sgt. Tim Hodgins of the guns and gangs unit. "[It's] more high-risk than your more traditional style of investigation."

Staff Sgt. Tim Hodgins (left) of the Ottawa police speaks at a news conference abouyt Project Sabotage as chief Charles Bordeleau looks on. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Thursday's sweep resulted in dozens of charges against 16 individuals, 13 arrests and the seizure of 24 firearms and narcotics, including cocaine, 95 fentanyl patches and 880 fentanyl pills.

Chief Charles Bordeleau called it the biggest seizure of guns by Ottawa police in years.

"We targeted specific, prolific violent offenders that are involved in the trafficking of firearms in our community," Bordeleau said.

"The trafficking of firearms is linked to the drug trade and violence in our streets. This was a significant investment that we made in order to hold people accountable, and we're pleased with the results."

Bordeleau said police have seized 51 guns so far this year.

There have been 68 shootings in Ottawa in 2017, six of them fatal.

Modified gun 'very disturbing'

According to police, one of the firearms had a bump stock, an illegal modification that simulates the firing ability of a fully automatic weapon.

"It is very disturbing to find a weapon of this style in the city," Hodgins said.

"This weapon was made for us during the [undercover] investigation. It's an after-market product, it's been added to a firearm that was purchased in this country."

He said a high-capacity magazine seized during the raids was "equally disturbing" because it's also illegal in Canada.

Bordeleau said while he's pleased with the results, the relative ease and speed which the undercover agent was able to buy guns shows the severity of the issue.

"I think the messaging to the people who resort to this kind of violence, carry this style of gun ... is they should be looking in their rearview mirror and looking around because the Ottawa police guns and gangs unit, we're out there," Hodgins said.

Most of those charged are accused of both drug and firearms offences totalling more than 300.

All of those named by police are male, and range in age from 20 to 42. All are residents of either Ottawa or Gatineau.

Hodgins said one had ties to a motorcycle gang.

Three men are wanted on an arrest warrant. The others appeared in court for a show cause hearing Thursday.

Ottawa police seized 24 firearms during Project Sabotage, including one in the top left corner of this image modified to simulate a fully automatic weapon. (Ottawa Police Service/Supplied)

Police seized cocaine and fentanyl patches as part of Project Sabotage. (Ottawa Police Service/Supplied)