Manitoba

Brandon police dismantle major cocaine trafficking network, arrest 11 people

Brandon police believe they have destroyed the city's cocaine trafficking network after nearly a dozen people were arrested and several properties searched throughout the month of May.

Police arrest 11, seek 12th accused in Project Brazen

Police seized cocaine, cash and other items after searching several homes during the month of May. (Brandon Police Service)

Brandon police believe they have destroyed the city's cocaine trafficking network after nearly a dozen people were arrested and several properties searched throughout the month of May.

Police released details Tuesday of a 16-month long investigation they coined Project Brazen. 

Staff Sargent Brian Partridge told reporters on Monday that the service's Organized Crime Section began their probe last February with help from the Winnipeg Police Service, RCMP D Division and the Manitoba Prosecution Service.

"We are confident that this is one of the, if not the highest level, cocaine trafficking networks operating in the city of Brandon," said Partridge. "So I'm confident that this is the major network that's been, well, destroyed, I hope." 

Police searched two homes in the city on May 3, and another five homes on May 18. In total, Partridge said four kilograms of cocaine and $120,000 in cash were seized. 

Numerous items believed to be the proceeds of crime were also taken, police said. 

Brandon police revealed details of the investigation during a virtual news conference on Tuesday. (Brandon Police Service)

"We hope that it will have a major impact [on the local drug trade]," he said.

Partridge said eleven people were arrested, ranging in age from 19 to 31 years old.

He said several of those arrested were in Canada illegally on expired study visas and originally came to Canada from Nigeria or Jamaica.

"Little information was available about most of these people because none of them have any history in Canada, nor do they have criminal records," Partridge said. "So identifying them and ensuring that we have the right people proved to be a bit of a difficult task at the start of this investigation."

Police are still searching for a twelfth person — a 26-year-old man who is a dual Canada-U.S citizen. They believe he fled to the United States in April. 

Partridge said the initial intent of the investigation was to tap into the city's methamphetamine and ecstasy trade, but the focus shifted to cocaine.

"We are not confident that other drugs were being trafficked at this level," he said.

He said the four-kilogram seizure in Brandon could be compared to a 50-kilogram seizure in Winnipeg.

Those arrested face charges including trafficking cocaine, possess for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, possession of the proceeds of crime and conspiracy to possess the proceeds of crime.

The eleven people arrested have all had their first court appearance, police said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Riley Laychuk is CBC's reporter based in Brandon, covering rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback: riley.laychuk@cbc.ca.

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