Police bust drug ring allegedly run from northern Ontario jail

Ontario provincial police say they have dismantled a prescription drug and cocaine trafficking ring allegedly run by an inmate in jail

Arrests made in Thunder Bay, Toronto, Mississauga, Kitchener, Waterloo and include a jail employee

A six-month investigation targeted a network that transported and distributed large amounts of oxycodone and cocaine from southern Ontario to north-western Ontario, including First Nations communities, officials said at a press conference in Thunder Bay Wednesday. Pictured from left to right are Thunder Bay Police Chief JP Levesque, OPP Chief Superintendent Mike Armstrong and Chief Claude Chum of Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Ontario provincial police say they have dismantled a prescription drug and cocaine trafficking ring allegedly run by an inmate in jail.

Investigators believe the group has been operating for two years and funnelled large amounts of cocaine and the painkiller Oxycodone from southern Ontario cities to remote aboriginal communities in northwestern Ontario.

Ontario Provincial Police Chief Superintendent Mike Armstrong said the drugs were being sold up to 10 times their value in these communities.

Eleven people, including a jail employee, are facing nearly 100 charges after the six-month joint investigation between the provincial police, RCMP and various local police forces.

Police allege the operation was being orchestrated by a 39-year-old inmate from the Thunder Bay jail.

A total of 95 charges were laid, some against a 71-year-old from Mississauga. Other arrests were made in Toronto, Kitchener and Waterloo.

Tip of the iceberg

Police say the investigation is ongoing and have issued warrants for four people. While they said they considered the bust to be large, they noted it's only the tip of the iceberg.

"That's the thing with organized crime. You never know where the supply is coming from," said Claude Chum, Chief of Nishnawbe-Aski Police.

"I don't think we can ever stop it. There's always a need, and there's always going to be a supply."

Thunder Bay Police Chief JP Levesque said dealers in the south are starting to look more to the north.

"The drugs ... that you'd normally be finding in eastern [and] southern Ontario are coming up here because it's so lucrative," Levesque said.

"When you're getting $600 a tablet in the Northern Reserves, it's far more lucrative to be moving it up this way."

The charges include drug trafficking, breach of probation and directing or participating in a criminal organization. One of the individuals – a 32-year-old male employee of the Thunder Bay District Jail – is charged with Breach of Trust.

Quantities of drugs worth about $1.13 million, as well as cash, were seized.

With files from Canadian Press