Manitoba

Police bust major western Canadian crime network, seize $2.7M worth of drugs, weapons, property

With the help of RCMP and other Prairie police forces, Winnipeg police say they have seized nearly $3 million worth of drugs and other property — including a semi — and disrupted a major criminal network across Canada's western provinces that should help stem the flow of drugs into the city.

10-month investigation across western provinces nets kilograms of meth and cocaine, weapons, and even a semi

Insp. Max Waddell, commander of the Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime unit, shows some of the drugs seized to media on Thursday. (Warren Kay/CBC )

With the help of RCMP and other western Canadian police forces, Winnipeg police say they have seized nearly $3 million worth of drugs and other property — including a semi — and disrupted a major criminal network across the western provinces that should help stem the flow of drugs into the city. 

The nearly 10-month investigation, dubbed Project Riverbank, resulted in the arrest of 10 people, including three men and three women in Winnipeg, who are all facing multiple drug trafficking and possession charges:

  • Mason Joaquin Burg, 24, of Winnipeg.
  • Daniel Jason Finkbeiner, 30, of Winnipeg.
  • Lisa Dawn Hallson 32, of Winnipeg.
  • Amanda Marie Borges, 27, of Winnipeg.
  • Darci Ann Geiger, 33, of Winnipeg.
  • William Junior Fuller, 22, of Winnipeg.
  • Mohammad Shakil Khan, 39, of Vancouver.
  • Allan Ronald Rodney, 70, of Surrey, B.C.
  • Shontal Vaupotic, 32, of Surrey, B.C.
  • Herbert Mejia-Orellana-Delgado, 29, of Edmonton.

In total, the 10 people arrested face 156 charges after search warrants were executed on Oct. 18. 

In Manitoba alone, three kilograms of methamphetamine, 11 kilograms of cocaine, 170 grams of heroin, and two kilograms of ketamine were seized. 

As a result of a 10-month investigation that involved five police forces, police say they have busted a complex drug network that was operating across the western provinces, resulting in $2.7 million in drugs, cash and vehicles being seized. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Insp. Max Waddell, with the Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime division, said the meth alone could translate into about 30,000 hits.

The bust could possibly disrupt the supply in the city.

"Any time you can get any methamphetamine off the streets of Winnipeg, it's a positive move towards that," he said.

"Most certainly, the individuals involved in this drug network were significant players, and … taking these drugs away from them and dismantling their network is going to have a significant impact in the city of Winnipeg."

Among the property and weapons taken in Manitoba, police seized $121,000 in cash, a Walther ​P99 9-mm semi-automatic handgun and ammunition, and $404,500 worth of vehicles. This includes a large purple semi-truck that police showed off at a conference in Winnipeg Thursday. 

The semi-truck police seized showed the logo for R.R. Plett Trucking Ltd., a family-owned business in Langley, B.C. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

The truck sported the logo of R.R. Plett Trucking Ltd., a Langley, B.C.-based company.

The owner of the family-run business, Reg Plett, says the truck belonged to an independent contractor and was operated by two of the accused — a man who drove for him for 15 years, and a woman who Plett believed was the man's niece.

"I can't believe it. Just blows me away. It's a total shock," he said.

"We're a very reputable company [in B.C.]. We've been in business for many, many years. People know us as being an honest company."

Drugs, vehicles and cash were also seized in Saskatchewan and Alberta, while cash and vehicles were seized in B.C.

Across the four western provinces, the combined value of drugs, property, and cash seized is approximately $2.7 million. That includes $899,260 in drugs, $1,408,500 in vehicles, and $378,740 in cash. 

In total, $845,500 in drugs were seized in Manitoba as part of Project Riverbank. (Warren Kay/CBC )

Scott Kolody, Manitoba RCMP assistant commissioner, said police have "no doubt" that this investigation will have a substantial impact on flow of drugs into Winnipeg and the rest of Manitoba. 

"These criminal organizations cause untold harm to communities, and are responsible for the victimization of so many of our most vulnerable," he said. 

"These drugs may arrive in our larger cities, but they quickly infiltrate every part of our province, from rural areas to remote northern communities. No place is immune from the reach of these organized crime networks."

The investigation focused on a sophisticated drug network that operated across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. 

Police believe the drugs moved west to east, with the flow of drugs originating in British Columbia, said Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth. 

The investigation was initiated by the Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime division, but grew to involve the RCMP and police services in Vancouver, Edmonton and Regina.

10-month investigation across western provinces nets kilograms of meth and cocaine, weapons, and even a semi. 2:03

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