ORILLIA – “Project HELSTON has revealed a blatant disregard for human life demonstrated by the individuals involved in the production and trafficking of illicit fentanyl and cocaine. The sheer impact of the potential number of street-level doses of fentanyl seized by investigators is absolutely shocking. These criminals partake in heinous activities that have an imminent risk of causing loss of life, and for nothing more than monetary gain. The opioid crisis in our country is becoming more and more severe and we as law enforcement send a message to anyone participating in trafficking or producing these deadly drugs – you are not welcome in our communities. Should you decide to endanger lives through these criminal activities, we will investigate you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. It is time to put an end to the distribution of these illicit and deadly drugs,” says OPP Deputy Commissioner Chuck Cox, Investigations and Organized Crime.
A 19-month investigation into criminal networks of individuals producing and trafficking illicit fentanyl, as well as trafficking cocaine in large quantities, has concluded with the seizure of 31.5 kilograms of fentanyl and 7.5 kilograms of cocaine. A total of 13 individuals are facing 141 charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and Criminal Code.
Project HELSTON has been an intelligence-led investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB), with assistance from the Cornwall Royal Canadian Mounted Police Border Integrity Unit. An influx of illicit substances in Eastern Ontario prompted the investigation in March 2020 and investigators have worked tirelessly to identify the source(s). As a result of the investigation, police were able to identify three criminal networks:
- A criminal network producing illicit fentanyl and trafficking fentanyl and cocaine in large quantities;
- A criminal network trafficking fentanyl and cocaine in large quantities; and
- A criminal network trafficking cocaine in large quantities.
The dangers that illicit fentanyl poses to those suffering from substance use disorders are insurmountable. When fentanyl is mixed with other substances in efforts to prepare it for sale, the end result can produce portions of the mixture that is more potent than other parts. For example, pressed pills may have a higher concentration of fentanyl in one pill versus another pill. Illicit drugs or illicit opioids are not made the same as pharmaceutical medication. When opioids are produced by a pharmaceutical company, they have a consistent dose found in each pill, patch or liquid. When they are produced illicitly, there is no quality control, and products are made with widely varying consistency and strength. The prevalence of fentanyl continues to increase. It is a drug sought after by users, and it is not often taken by mistake.
The quantity of fentanyl seized through Project HELSTON enforcement equates to more than 315,000 street-level doses. Fentanyl can be fatal even in small quantities, and paired with the dangers of illicitly produced fentanyl with no quality control, the potential for a user to consume a lethal dose is high. Investigators have been conservative with street-level dose estimates, as dose size is subjective and varies from one individual to another.
On November 3, 2021, police executed a total of four search warrants in Mississauga, Cornwall and Ottawa. Members from OPP OCEB, Tactics and Rescue Unit, Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement Squad, Canine, Cybercrime Investigations Team and Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit as well as Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau Tactical Unit assisted with the execution of the search warrants.
As a result of this investigation, police seized:
- 31.5 kilograms of fentanyl;
- 7.5 kilograms of cocaine;
- 68 oxycodone pills;
- A handgun with 17 rounds of ammunition; and
- Four vehicles as offence-related property, with a combined value of approximately $107,000.
The drugs seized in this investigation have an estimated street-value of more than $13.3 million.
Thirteen people are facing 141 CDSA and Criminal Code charges including trafficking cocaine and fentanyl, production of fentanyl, possession of property obtained by crime, assault with a weapon, firearms charges and breach of probation. A full list is available on the Addendum of Charged Persons included in the Project HELSTON media kit.
Upon arrest, all of the accused were remanded into custody. They are expected to appear at an Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa on various dates throughout November, 2021.