Edmonton police seize $3.2-million stash of carfentanil in record bust

Edmonton police have seized $3.2 million in carfentanil after a fire call led to the discovery of a massive stash of the deadly drug inside a basement suite in the city’s southwest.

'The ingestion of these substances even in trace amounts can be lethal'

This house at 10920 69th Avenue has been declared unfit for human habitation. (CBC)

Edmonton police have seized $3.2 million worth of carfentanil after a fire call led to the discovery of a massive stash of the deadly drug in a basement suite in the city's southwest.

It's the largest seizure of the drug ever recorded by Edmonton police, they said on Friday. 

The deadly opioid is extremely potent and is most often used as a tranquilizer for large mammals such as elephants. 

"Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more toxic than fentanyl, and 5,000 more potent than heroin," Insp. Shane Perka said in a news release. "Given its toxicity, the ingestion of these substances even in trace amounts can be lethal." 

On Jan. 28, while responding to a fire call at a residence near 109th Street and 69th Avenue in the Parkallen neighbourhood, Edmonton Fire and Rescue Services discovered a suspicious powder in an empty basement suite and requested police attendance. 
The mutli-million dollar stash was found by firefighters in a vacant basement suite in Edmonton's southwest. (Edmonton Police)

Patrol officers responded at about 7 p.m. that night and launched a drug investigation in the multi-unit building.     

Police later executed a search warrant and seized 12 one-kilogram bags of white powder, 16 one-kg bags of blue powder, and a similar pink powder.

After analysis, investigators from the Edmonton Drug and Gang Enforcement team confirmed the blue and pink substances contained carfentanil, "which was likely destined for street level distribution," police said. 

The white powder is believed to be caffeine, which would have been used as a "buffing agent" to cut the drug before it was sold, Perka said in a news conference on Friday. 

Police could not say whether the drug was being mixed for trafficking on the property, but are confident it was bound for the black market, he said. 

"I can't say how many lethal doses would have been inside of that quantity, but I can say that, broken down, there was probably 161,000 doses within that 16 kilograms."

No arrests have been made in the case and police are still looking for those responsible.

The building has been condemned by Alberta Health Services until further notice.

A notice posted of the front door warns that the property has been deemed unfit for human habitation.

"Based on information received from the Edmonton Police Services and information from a hazardous materials clean-up company," the notice said, "the housing premises was being used as a clandestine drug production and manufacturing laboratory for suspected fentanyl and/or carfentanil."

Some of the drugs may have been tracked or dispersed throughout the house, the notice said.

"This underlines the risk toxic opioids present not only to the residents at this property but to those who could have come into contact with it on our streets," Perka said.

The other tenants living in the upper unit of the rental suite were university students, who were unaware of the drug operation taking place in their basement, police said.

Investigators are still looking to positively identify and speak to the tenant, who is considered a person of interest in the case, police said.

The university students made the initial call to local firefighters, said Perka.

"There was a tenant in the basement, however the tenant wasn't there," Perka said. "It was being lived in, but to what extent and for how long, I'm not going to comment on that." 

The investigation continues. Anyone with information on the seizure is asked to contact Edmonton police or Crime Stoppers.