WRPS seize largest amount of cash, assets ever after drug probe

The Waterloo Regional Police Service says it has arrested five people and seized the largest amount of cash and assets ever in the force's history as part of a drug investigation called Project Variance.

Five arrested and drugs, vehicles and cash seized as part of Project Variance

Chief Bryan Larkin called this a significant seizure because it targeted those manufacturing and distributing drugs in Waterloo region. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A recent drug investigation dubbed Project Variance has resulted in the largest seizure of cash and assets ever for the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

Five people were arrested last Thursday as part of the investigation and thousands of dollars worth of drugs were seized.

As well, there was approximately $234,000 in Canadian currency, two Mercedes vehicles, two Audi vehicles, two dirt bikes and two Harley Davidson motorcycles seized.

"Lots of cash, that was the big thing that came out of it," Insp. David Bishop said when asked what officers noticed during the six search warrants completed in June.

"The cash was very surprising to the officers, just in the volume that's there and the fact that in many cases, scattered around the house. It's almost like somebody was tidying up and having to find places to put piles of cash."

This is suspected carfentanil seized during the search warrants part of Project Variance. It has been sent to Health Canada for testing. It was not part of the press conference, but is seen in a police photo that was on display. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The vehicles as well as some of the cash and drugs were on display at a press conference at police headquarters Thursday afternoon.

Police Chief Bryan Larkin said those arrested made a "luxurious living" off of vulnerable people who have addictions.

"This is considered a substantial seizure because it goes to the top," Larkin said.

"We're targeting people who are making and distributing and profiting from opioid and drug trafficking and distribution. It's these individuals that make the decision to distribute illegal, dangerous and deadly drugs to our children, to our family, to our neighbours and to our friends."

These are two of the cars seized during Project Variance. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Five arrested

Officers executed six search warrants last month, including at three residences on Cedar Street S. and Victoria Street S. in Kitchener and Nickolas Crescent in Cambridge.

There were two search warrants at recreational trailers at campgrounds on Puddicombe Road in New Hamburg and Prouse Road in Ingersoll while a sixth search warrant was executed at an industrial unit on West Avenue in Kitchener.

When it came to drugs found in these locations, officers seized:

  • 468 grams of suspected fentanyl and/or carfentanil with an estimated street value of $140,000.
  • 3 kilograms of suspected crystal meth with an estimated street value of $240,000.
  • 830 grams of suspect cocaine with an estimated street value of $83,000.
  • 320 grams of marijuana with an estimated street value of $1,600.
  • 285 grams of Psilocybin (mushrooms) with an estimated street value of $2,850.

The five people arrested included four people from Kitchener: a 31-year-old man, a 43-year-old man, a 36-year-old woman and a 30 year-old man. A 33-year-old man from Cambridge was also arrested.

Insp. David Bishop says officers executing search warrants were surprised by the amount of cash found in some of the locations. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

'Can't arrest our way out of this'

Larkin said it's necessary for the police force to target the people manufacturing and trafficking drugs in Waterloo region — not the users.

"There's often been criticism of the police service lately around our approach to the opioid crisis, that we can't arrest our way out of this," he said.

But he said the users, those with addictions, need the help of social services.

One of two Harley Davidson motorcycles seized as part of Project Varience. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

"We have a role to play but it's a much larger, broader strategy and the work that you see behind here is our strategy," Larkin said, motioning to the seized items.

He also noted carfentanil seizures in the region are believed to have already surpassed all of the seizures in 2017.

Last year, there were 126 seizures of fentanyl and 24 tested positive for carfentanil.

So far this year, police have sent drugs from 101 seizures to Health Canada. Already, 28 of those have come back positive for carfentanil while 13 others have been fentanyl. They're awaiting results on the remaining drugs.

"You can see the disturbing trend that carfentanil is overtaking the illicit trafficking of fentanyl, which is again, much more deadly and much more dangerous," Larkin said.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service showed off some of the drugs and cash seized during an investigation dubbed Project Variance on Thursday. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

In terms of deaths, he noted 85 people died last year from drug overdoses.

So far this year, 22 people have died.

"This is a considerable, significant investigation from our service and is one we believe will have substantial impact on our community and one that will disrupt the flow of deadly drugs into Waterloo region," Insp. Michael Haffner said.

Two dirt bikes and two more vehicles seized as part of Project Variance. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)