$1.2M in drugs, dozens of firearms seized in Peel police bust 'Project Baron'
A Brampton man is facing more than 60 charges in a months-long investigation that allegedly yielded $1.2 million worth of illicit drugs and dozens of high-powered firearms.
Peel Regional Police are touting the case as single biggest firearms seizure in the force’s history.
The investigation, dubbed Project Baron, started back in January as a probe into drug trafficking. With collaboration from numerous law enforcement agencies in both Peel Region and Toronto, including the Canada Border Services Agency, officers narrowed their focus on a single suspect.
An arrest was made months later, on March 21, and saw police fan out across the GTA to search addresses and vehicles associated with the accused.
Six search warrants were executed across Peel Region and Toronto. The suspect is also known to be linked to several locations in Toronto, including, including residences near Sandalwood Parkway, Hurontario Street, and in Liberty Village, and a storage locker in the Rexdale neighborhood.
In total, police allegedly seized 26 firearms and $1.2 million worth of drugs.
Among the items police said they seized:
- 16 handguns
- 4 shotguns
- 6 rifles
- 1,500 rounds of ammunition
- Numerous high capacity magazines
- 3.5 kilograms of cocaine
- 2 kilograms of methamphetamine
- 1 kilogram of heroin
- 1 kilogram of fentanyl
- 311 grams of mushrooms
- A large quantity of Canadian currency
- One bulletproof vest
“I can speak to one firearm coming off the street and the amount of damage that can cause both to persons and the illicit drug trade… 26 firearms, I think the impact is astronomical as far as public safety is concerned,” Acting Det. Sgt. Chad Lines said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“Our investigation is continuing into the firearms as to how involved his network – or if there is a network involved – would be with the firearms, but you’re not entrusted with this amount of drugs and firearms if you aren’t a higher lever criminal operator.”
Lines said the guns and drugs were predominately located in “traps” – customized compartments installed in vehicles or furniture which are used to conceal items.
In a photo provided by police, one of the “intricately designed” traps was installed in the trunk of a vehicle, posing as a custom speaker system.
“They’re operated on hydraulics, so there’s a series of switches or mechanisms that open it up,” Lines said.
“If you were to walk by one, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that there was something hidden within it.”
Lines noted that the trap compartments in vehicles make weapons easily accessible to criminals, amplifying the risk for officers performing a simple traffic stop.
He classified the suspect as a “mid-to-high level drug trafficker” but could not speak to whether the arrest has implications to other criminal networks.
Investigators are working on tracing the guns seized.
“We’re far from done our investigation,” Lines said. “With this number of firearms, the follow up investigation is enormous.”
The suspect, identified as a 35-year-old Salem Talke, has been charged with more than 60 firearms and drugs related offences.
He will appear in court for a bail hearing “in the near future,” according to Lines.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown commended the work of Peel Regional Police, assuring their residents of the commitment to community safety.
“People need to continue to feel safe in their communities. As a community, we need to stop gun violence and stop handguns from coming into our cities,” Crombie said.
“This is what happens when you equip police with the appropriate resources to do their job and protect our community,” Brown added.