RCMP bust $1.75M 'elaborate' cocaine ring between Ontario, California
Arrests happened while suspects were in the middle of importing drugs to Kitchener-Waterloo
Twelve people, including nine from Waterloo region, have been charged in what police are calling an "extensive and elaborate" California-to-Ontario cocaine trafficking operation, police announced Friday.
On Thursday, 14 search warrants were executed in Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Leamington and Wheatley, RCMP Supt. Jamie Jagoe said during a press conference about Project O-Wing.
In total, more than 38.5 kilograms of cocaine was seized, worth roughly $1.75 million. In Waterloo region, one kilogram of cocaine sells for between $42,000 to $45,000, police said.
"This is a large amount of cocaine by any standard," Jagoe said. Five "high-end" vehicles and "approximately $15,000" were seized.
Waterloo Regional Police Supt. Pat Dietrich described the international smuggling operation as "extensive and elaborate."
He said over 90 members of that force were involved in yesterday's arrests and seizures. Since September 2016, he said, "three full-time investigators and several other officers and investigative teams" were intermittently assigned to the case.
The smuggling was organized by a group of people in Waterloo region, police said. The suspects allegedly hid cocaine in the floorboards of commercial trucks carrying legitimate cargo.
The U.S. departments of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration played "pivotal roles," Jagoe said.
RCMP take-down at Walmart plaza in <a href="https://twitter.com/cambridgetimes">@cambridgetimes</a> <a href="https://t.co/w9sYD1BgYu">pic.twitter.com/w9sYD1BgYu</a>—@BilChester
A Twitter user named Bil Chester posted a video of an arrest at a Walmart parking lot in Cambridge Thursday.
Jagoe said the suspect in that video was in the midst of importing drugs.
Jagoe said during that particular bust, 34 kilograms of cocaine was seized.
"The major part of the seizure occurred and follow-up searches were conducted in the local area where additional amounts of cocaine was seized."