Police make arrests and seize vehicles, cash, drugs, weapons and paraphernalia in operation against deadly fentanyl drug trade

All photos by VPD

RECENT spikes in fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths prompted a swift collaboration between the Vancouver Police Department, RCMP Federal Policing and the Burnaby RCMP. Police had been targeting the fentanyl drug trade in the Lower Mainland, an initiative kick-started in October 2014 through a joint forces operation named Project Tainted.

On Tuesday, police announced that eight people have been arrested as a result of the project, with additional warrants being issued for suspects who were not located during the searches.

Those charged so far:

* Raymond Ranu, 28, eight counts of trafficking and three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking;

* Yaseen Williams, 26, two counts of trafficking;

* Walter McCormick, 50, two counts of trafficking and four counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking;

* Shazhada Khan, 45, eight counts of trafficking;

* Richard Smallboy, 23, five counts of trafficking;

* Wesley Lau, 27, 16 counts of trafficking;

* Christopher Diabikulu, 22, one count of trafficking;

* Maboso Molemba, 23, 12 counts of trafficking and one count of assault causing bodily harm (Burnaby);

* Mangongo Molemba, 23, two counts of trafficking; and

* Maksym Pefti, 22, two counts of trafficking, and possession for the purpose of trafficking, attempt murder (Burnaby), use of restricted firearm (Burnaby), unlawfully discharge firearm (Burnaby) and possession of prohibited firearm (Burnaby).

VPD0415-300x233On February 17, Project Tainted culminated with the execution of 11 search warrants throughout Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver, in a coordinated effort by partner agencies, including the North Vancouver RCMP and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU).

Seizures: 7 vehicles; $215,000 cash; pill press; 13,000 oxycodone; 29,000 fentanyl pills; 147,000 pills; believed to be Alprazolam; 503,000 coloured pills (yet to be analyzed); 9.5 kg of crack cocaine; 5.5 kg of powdered cocaine; 19.5 kg of marijuana; 1 kg of methamphetamine; 3 kg of hash; .5 kg of heroin; 2,200 flaps of heroin; various other drugs including steroids and methamphetamine; various drug paraphernalia; 4 guns; 2 replica guns; and 1 bulletproof vest.

Enforcement efforts have been focused specifically on individuals and groups producing and distributing drugs laced with the deadly chemical. For the takedown of the project, both the RCMP North Vancouver Detachment Strike Force and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit contributed resources vital to the successful searches and arrests.

“The partnerships and collaboration of law enforcement resources in the Lower Mainland was critical to the success of this investigation and the coordinated take-down action,” said Chief Superintendent Kevin deBruyckere, head of the RCMP Federal Policing Program in BC. “This project highlights the force-multiplying capabilities of such cooperative operations, which effectively served federal, provincial and multiple municipal initiatives.”

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid or painkiller similar to heroin, but 50 to 100 times more toxic than other narcotics, was associated with one-quarter of over 300 overdose deaths in BC in 2014. Users had either knowingly or unknowingly consumed fentanyl that was mixed with a variety of other drugs.

Fentanyl has shown up in liquids, powders and pills, and can be masked in virtually any consumable product. Fentanyl-laced marijuana, heroin, oxycodone and other party drugs, have resulted in the deaths of many occasional drug users. The drug does not discriminate, as overdoses have been seen in all segments of society.

On March 2, police and health authorities launched Know Your Source? Be Drug Smart, an awareness campaign designed to educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl, and encourage those who choose to use, to do so with caution.

For more information about the dangers of fentanyl, visit knowyoursource.ca.

“The addition of fentanyl into already dangerous street drugs is a relatively new trend, which has exposed the inconsistent and callous production processes within the criminal drug trade,” said VPD Superintendent Mike Porteous. “The swath of devastation and death that’s been left in the wake of fentanyl-laced drugs is unprecedented for local health authorities and police.”

“The goal of this project was to target those who were peddling poison in our communities, and to disrupt the local supply of fentanyl-laced drugs that were being distributed throughout the Lower Mainland and beyond,” said deBruyckere.

Acting upon available intelligence, the joint investigative team aggressively pursued potential distributors of fentanyl-tainted products.

“Investigators gathered the evidence through traditional investigative strategies and formed the grounds to search vehicles, residences and storage lockers across the Lower Mainland,” said Chief Superintendent Dave Critchley, Officer-in-Charge of the Burnaby RCMP. “This end result is not just a significant achievement for the cities of Burnaby, Vancouver and North Vancouver, but for all of British Columbia.”