OPP – 274 Illegal Firearms Seized in Record Breaking Drug Bust

In Crime

Province’s largest seizure of handguns and assault-style rifles results in 16 arrests, 279 charges and one wanted person

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)-led Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) and the United States (US) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have seized 274 illegal firearms, including 168 in the US and 106 in Ontario. This is the largest seizure of handguns and assault-style rifles in the province’s history.

In early 2023, HSI and PWEU commenced an investigation into two individuals who were seeking to traffic firearms in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Project SAXOM was initiated by PWEU in Ontario with support from HSI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Project DUAL APPROACH commenced in the US, led by HSI Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) Buffalo and supported by HSI Miami, PWEU and ATF.

As a result of Project DUAL APPROACH, 168 illegal firearms were intercepted before they could be smuggled into Ontario. One dual citizen (of Canada and the US) has been arrested and will be prosecuted in the US.

Project SAXOM utilized traditional investigative techniques, including covert operations, to infiltrate a group of individuals seeking to traffic firearms in the Greater Toronto Area. As the investigation progressed, additional suspects belonging to five distinct criminal networks were identified. In addition to trafficking firearms, PWEU also discovered that several of the accused were also trafficking illicit drugs.

In Ontario, PWEU executed 17 search warrants at locations in the GTA and Niagara Region on February 13 and February 14, 2024. The results of Ontario enforcement efforts (Project SAXOM) include the seizure of a total of 106 illegal firearms, some of which were loaded. Seized items include:

·      88 illegal handguns including restricted and prohibited handguns and AK-47-style and AR-15-style prohibited pistols/handguns. This includes two restricted handguns (.40 calibre) that had been converted to fully automatic firearms.

·      18 long guns. This includes non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited rifles and one shotgun.

·      118 prohibited devices. This includes one silencer, one conducted energy weapon, 20 brass knuckles, 22 prohibited knives and 74 prohibited firearm magazines. One of the prohibited firearm magazines is a “drum magazine” (for a handgun that holds 50 rounds of .40cal ammunition), and other over-capacity magazines that have the ability to hold between 11 and 31 rounds of ammunition.

·      Approximately 1,700 rounds of ammunition.

·      Approximately 23 kilograms of methamphetamine.

·      More than 1 kilogram of high-potency fentanyl, equivalent to 60,000 to 70,000 street-level doses.

·      688 suspected fentanyl pills.

·      1.3 kilograms of suspected cocaine.

·      197 grams of suspected heroin.

·      877 opioid pills.

·      280 grams of suspected psilocybin.

·      432 grams of an unknown substance and 20 unknown prescription pills.

·      $63,332 in Canadian currency.

·      $4,689 in US currency.

The potential street value of the illicit drugs and illegal firearms seized in Ontario is approximately $3.25 million.

This investigation resulted in 16 arrests in Ontario. One individual, Eric ROBINSON, 35 of St. Catharines remains wanted. In total, PWEU has laid 279 charges under the Criminal Code (CC) and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Six of the accused are subject to lifetime firearms prohibition bans. One accused was on full parole. Another was on Statutory Release.

The Project SAXOM media kit contains the Addendum of Charged Persons, photos, a video and a project poster.

Project SAXOM remains ongoing. Anyone with any information about the trafficking of illegal firearms and/or illicit drugs is urged to call OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit ontariocrimestoppers.ca.

 

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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