Manitoba

Winnipeg council candidate Ray Ulasy among 14 charged in Project Distress

A Winnipeg man who ran for a city council seat this past fall is among 14 people who face numerous charges in Project Distress, a police drug investigation spanning four provinces.
A Winnipeg man who ran for a city council seat this past fall is among 14 people who face numerous charges in Project Distress, a police drug investigation spanning four provinces. 2:18

A Winnipeg man who ran for a city council seat this past fall is among 14 people who face numerous charges in Project Distress, a police drug investigation spanning four provinces.

Ray Ulasy, seen here at ElectionFest 2014, was a council candidate in the Transcona ward during Winnipeg's civic election campaign. He lost to incumbent Russ Wyatt. (Jessica Botelho-Urbanski)
Ray Ulasy, 50, faces two counts of firearms trafficking, police announced Thursday.

RCMP officers converged upon his McFadden Avenue home, along with numerous other residences, on Wednesday.

Ulasy was a vice-president with a local recruitment and human resources firm and had been a board member with a number of community groups.

He ran for the council seat in Winnipeg's Transcona ward, but lost to incumbent Russ Wyatt in the Oct. 22 civic election.

Project Distress started in October 2013 and focused on high-level members of drug trafficking cells in Manitoba, with connections to Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Some of the firearms that were seized as part of Project Distress, a police drug investigation that spanned four provinces. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)
The investigation was conducted by the Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force, which included officers with the Winnipeg Police Service, RCMP and Brandon Police Service.

During the 15-month-long covert investigation, officers used wiretaps to intercept more than 80,000 private conversations.

Police say they seized more than six kilograms of cocaine, eight kilograms of methamphetamine, and smaller quantities of dilaudid, oxycodone, steriods, percocet and marijuana.

RCMP say Project Distress uncovered firearms, drugs and about $70,000 in cash. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)
Officers also seized long-barrelled guns, handguns, ammunition, and more than $70,000 in cash. Police put the seized items on display for reporters on Thursday afternoon.

"As much as a lot of drug charges came out of this, the goal is really to destabilize the organized crime groups," said Supt. Danny Smyth of the Winnipeg Police Service.

RCMP showed off some of the drugs that were seized as part of Project Distress on Thursday. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)
​RCMP Supt. Len Del Pino said he's pleased with the success of the operation, but he acknowledged that another group is likely waiting in the wings.

"I think it's pretty safe to say that you remove one group and another group steps in to take over, and that's what we've been finding," he said.

"Every time that we've removed a group, another group starts up."

In addition to Ulasy, 13 other people face charges that include drug trafficking and possession.

Nine of them are from Winnipeg, including Ulasy. Police also arrested a former Winnipegger living in Port Coquitlam, B.C., and a former Calgary resident who now lives in Mississauga, Ont.

2 suspects at large

Twelve of the 14 people charged have been arrested but police are still looking for two others, including 31-year-old Sean Demchuk, who faces charges of conspiracy to traffic meth and cocaine and two counts of possessing the proceeds of crime.

Geraldine Demchuk said police went overboard in using battering rams and smoke bombs to charge into her house on Wednesday. (CBC)
​His mother, Geraldine Demchuk, told CBC News that police officers barged to her home in Winnipeg Beach on Wednesday morning.

​Both her front and back doors were knocked in and the officers fired two smoke bombs into the house as well — one into the back door and the other through her bedroom window. The window was left shattered with glass all over the bed, Demchuk said.

Sean Demchuk wasn't in the home at the time. His mother says he has never lived there.

Geraldine Demchuk said the police officers caused about $2,000 in damage to her home. She is demanding that Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis apologize for the officers' actions and pay to repair the damage.

"I'd like to know why they felt it necessary for them to come and destroy what I have and then just walk away like nothing happened, like it was just a big joke," she said.

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