Drug bust pays off big
Several suspected high-level drug traffickers and street-level dealers have been busted after a months-long investigation in London in which $2.6 million in drugs, $300,000 in vehicles -- and even a house -- were seized.
Thirty-six people, most of them Londoners, face 127 charges after what police dubbed Project Ulverston, a joint investigation between the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, the RCMP and London police.
"It's very satisfying to disrupt people who may have been involved in the drug trade for years," said OPP Staff Sgt. Bill O'Shea, who headed the investigation.
"People always ask us, 'When are you going to get the big guys?' "
"We targeted the people in the upper echelons of these organizations," O'Shea said.
The investigation began in June. About $2.6 million worth of drugs was seized, including 60 kilograms of ecstasy, worth about $2 million on the street.
The drugs were destined for Windsor and then the United States, police say.
"Some of the drugs originated in the GTA, others originated outside of Canada," O'Shea said.
"Cocaine has to come from a different source country, but Canada is unfortunately a source country for ecstasy, so some of these drugs obviously could've originated within our borders."
Police also seized ecstasy and cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, hashish and magic mushrooms.
They seized cash and 11 vehicles and boats worth $300,000, as well as a London home.
"We did hundreds of hours of surveillance and recorded hours of private conversations," O'Shea said. "There were primary targets and through the course of the investigation, we found secondary targets. This kind of investigation can really mushroom.
"People think of organized crime as biker gangs or street gangs or the Mafia. But really, it's people working together for a criminal activity. They might not fly a flag, but they do work together."
O'Shea said OPP were already working with London police in January when they realized there was "significant case overlap" with people being investigated by the RCMP. The three then decided to join forces.
Hundreds of officers were involved in the massive bust throughout the investigation, O'Shea said.
"We have a lot of hard-working officers who sacrificed a lot. It's not over. Now we have the court cases."
All 36 people charged have made court appearances and their charges are working their way through court. The charges include participation in a criminal organization, trafficking in controlled substances and conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances.
Of those charged, 29 live in London. Others are from Sarnia, Denfield, Windsor, Belmont, St. Thomas, Bayfield and Mississauga.
OPP Det. Insp. Randy Rosiak encouraged people not to be afraid to report suspicious activity.
"These accused used the anonymity of everyday society to conduct their activity," he said.
"Crime prevention is a shared responsibility and one that we all need to take a lot more seriously."
THE BUST BY THE NUMBERS
3: police agencies involved
36: people charged
127: charges laid
60: kilograms of ecstasy seized
1,576: pot plants seized
300,000: dollar amount of cash, vehicles and boats seized
2,600,000: total dollar amount of all the drugs seized
By KATE DUBINSKI
Last Updated: 28th November 2009, 8:31am