GTA investigation leads to 73 charged, 23 firearms and $390K worth of narcotics seized
Police say that 73 people have been charged in connection with an eight-month-long drugs and guns investigation in the Greater Toronto Area.
The investigation, dubbed “Project Kraken,” culminated in a number of pre-dawn raids on Thursday.
Police from 12 services executed 99 arrest and search warrants on the day, resulting in the arrest of 55 people. Over the course of the investigation, 73 people were charged with 599 offences.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday police said that about 700 officers were involved overall in the investigation that targeted an east-end street gang called the Chester Le Gang.
“Investigators were able to substantiate and now allege that the Chester Le gang were involved in extensive gun and drug activity,” said Deputy Chief Jim Ramer. “Investigators are also able to allege that numerous members of this gang committed brazen armed robberies while having a callous disregard for public safety.”
Officers seized 23 firearms, including semi-automatics, with a street value of $85,000.
“It’s very concerning when you see this,” said Senior Firearms Officer Bruce Finn, holding up a prohibited semi-automatic 22-caliber rifle with a drum magazine.
“You’re not allowed to have a drum magazine because it holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition. 100 bullets would go in that so you could continue shooting until it was empty.”
Police also seized $390,000 in narcotics, including fentanyl. Investigators allege that some of the gang members were trafficking fentanyl to Thunder Bay, Sarnia and Peterborough.
“A lot of the fentanyl is coming from abroad,” said RCMP Chief Superintendent Michael Lesage. “We’ve been dealing with it for the last number of years. Mail-order packages, we’ve been doing a lot of work with our international partners to try and stem that flow into Canada.”
Seven tow truck operators were also arrested in “Project Kraken” following allegations they were fighting over territory. Police say in two of the robberies, tow trucks smashed their way through the front of jewelry stores and firearms were discharged.
Pointing to the display of weapons at today’s news conference, Ramer said that “some of the guns before you were seized from tow truck operators that had armed themselves and were prepared to shoot other tow truck operators over an ongoing battle over territory.”
Police allege the Chester Le gang was operating as a “coordinated criminal organization,” and was involved in an extensive drug-trafficking network whose reach extended far beyond the GTA.
“It’s the motivation for money, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” said Ramer. “It’s a desire for a different lifestyle and these activities — human trafficking, drug trafficking — the guns are the tools of the trade and its about profit making.”
Charges include firearms offences as well as numerous drug-related offences, including trafficking and importation.