'Lives have been saved': Record-setting fentanyl, meth bust keeps $4M in drugs off Calgary streets
ALERT's Project Offshore nets 15,757 fentanyl pills, 28 kg of methamphetamine
Investigators confiscated record-setting amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl pills in a year-long operation dubbed Project Offshore that Calgary police say took more than $4 million in drugs off the streets.
The investigation by the organized crime and gang team within the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) began in September 2016. It has resulted in the arrest of 11 suspects, all from Calgary, who face more than 125 criminal charges, said ALERT Insp. Patty McCallum at a press conference Wednesday.
"Given the health crisis our communities have faced over opioid abuse, there is no doubt in my mind that lives have been saved," she said. "This was a complex, robust investigation."
Over the course of the operation, 11 houses in Calgary were searched, turning up 15,757 fentanyl pills, 28 kilograms of methamphetamine, 6.7 kilograms of cocaine and 75 kilograms of cocaine buffing agent, ALERT says.
It's believed the fentanyl pills came from British Columbia, and the meth — which had a purity of 96 per cent — was either sourced locally or from Mexico.
Investigators also confiscated three cocaine labs, 11 handguns — some of them modified to be fully automatic — as well as body armour.
"The fentanyl seizure is the largest of its kind by ALERT, while the meth seizure nearly doubles the previous record for all of Alberta," ALERT said in a release.
A big part of the success of the investigation is that it hit the drug dealers hard financially, McCallum said.
"Our investigators were very diligent in pursuing proceeds of crime and assets that facilitated or enabled the operation," she said.
"Half a million dollars in cash was seized, along with vehicles and two homes."
Police began arresting suspects involved in the alleged drug ring this month. The 11 suspects rounded up so far face drugs, weapons and organized crime charges.
Police believe the central players are Guan Chen, 27, Chang Yong Yun, 37, Behnam Fayaz, 31 and Simon Sui-Sang Yuen, 34.
"ALERT alleges these individuals facilitated drug distribution, and each had their own group of street-level dealers," McCallum said.
Yuen is wanted on a warrant, while the others are in police custody. McCallum said two of the suspects have previously been convicted of manslaughter.
The investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected relating to money laundering.
Previous record drug busts in Alberta include:
- $9.3 million worth of illegal steroids in Edmonton in 2014.
- $5 million worth of cocaine seized in Calgary in 2015.
- $4.8 million grow-op busted in Drumheller in 2010.
Project ALERT is a provincially funded group of police officers who focus on organized crime. It includes members of the Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Lethbridge Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service and RCMP.