4 charged after Toronto police target cross-border handgun smuggling ring

Four people from throughout the GTA face charges after police busted an alleged cross-border firearms trafficking ring bringing guns to Toronto from the United States.

'Project Belair' lands 30 handguns, over-capacity magazines, ammunition and narcotics

Some of the handguns and narcotics seized by Toronto police during Project Belair, a months-long, cross-border probe targetting firearms smugglers. (Linda Ward/CBC)

Four people from throughout the GTA face charges after police busted an alleged cross-border firearms trafficking ring bringing guns to Toronto from the United States. 

"Project Belair," a joint investigation between Toronto police, Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, yielded 30 handguns, a small amount of ammunition and various narcotics. 

Results from the months-long probe were announced Wednesday morning at Toronto police headquarters. 

On Oct. 31, CBSA stopped a 50-year-old Toronto woman attempting to cross into Canada at Fort Erie in a rented sedan. After a search that required dismantling parts of the vehicle, officers discovered 25 handguns, vacuum-sealed in plastic bags, submerged in the gas tank. They also discovered 16 over-capacity magazines, which are banned in Canada. 

The woman was arrested and transferred to the custody of Toronto police. 

Border agents cut the rental car's gas tank in half to access 25 vacuum-sealed handguns concealed inside. (Toronto Police Service)

In the days that followed, warrants executed at homes and in vehicles in Brampton, Toronto and Ajax led to arrests of three men and the seizure of five more handguns, 136 rounds of various types of ammunition, considerable quantities of drugs and $45,000 in cash. 

The narcotics seized by police include:

  • 166 grams of cocaine.
  • 111 grams of crack cocaine.
  • 13 kilograms of cannabis.

While recreational cannabis was legalized last month, the quantity seized during Belair remains illegal, police pointed out. 

Two of the men who were arrested, both aged 52, are from Brampton. The third man, 41, is from Ajax. All three men face multiple charges in relation to firearms and drug trafficking, as well as possession of proceeds of a crime. Charges brought against the woman pertain to the border seizure of handguns and over-capacity magazines. 

Don Belanger, acting director of Toronto police's integrated guns and gangs task force, said that investigators believe the guns were purchased legally in the U.S. for several hundred dollars each. They can sell for between $2,000 and $5,000 on the streets of Toronto. 

"And the guns only have one purpose," Belanger told reporters. 

"I think we've effectively dismantled one firearms importation ring, I'm confident of that," he added.

When asked if the four accused individuals had any known ties to organized crime groups in the city, Belanger declined to answer. 

Police also seized 13 kilograms of cannabis, which they allege was intended for the purpose of trafficking. (Linda Ward/CBC)