Police in Ontario conclude ten month investigation into cannabis, cocaine, tobacco, and human smuggling ring

| Morton Robertson

Niagara Regional Police Service announced today the completion of a ten-month investigation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of pounds of cannabis and tens of thousands of cannabis plants, along with large amounts of cocaine, tobacco, weapons, and cash. 

Beginning in the fall of 2021 and dubbed “Project Gateway”, investigators from the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS), Peel Regional Police (PRP) and the Hamilton-Niagara Detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), uncovered an import/export ring bringing cocaine and tobacco into Canada and exporting cannabis and tobacco from Canada. 

The operation was concluded on September 14, 2022 with the execution of search warrants in various locations throughout the Province of Ontario. The search warrants were executed with the assistance of approximately 175 police officers from police agencies across Southern Ontario and 10 Canada Border Services Agency officers.

The 10-month investigation identified an organized group investigators allege were engaged in a number of alleged criminal enterprises including conspiring to smuggle cocaine from Mexico and Los Angeles into Canada by transport truck (via various ports of entry), operating cocaine extraction labs in rural properties located in South-Western Ontario designed to transform smuggled cocaine from an altered state (used to conceal the substance) to powder cocaine for resale, smuggling cannabis and cannabis derivatives from Canada to the United States and other countries internationally by transport truck and registered shipping services, and smuggling large amounts of tobacco from the United States into Canada by transport truck. Some of the smuggled tobacco was kept in Canada while some was smuggled overseas from Canada.

Image via Niagara Regional Police Services

Members were also alleged to have engaged in smuggling people across the Niagara River into New York State by boat; possessing stolen vehicles and shipping them overseas; firearms possession; employing illegal foreign workers to work at cannabis production sites and to clean chain hotels; production of cannabis on a massive scale to be smuggled into the United States using transport trucks; and production of illegal cigarettes.

Over the last 10 months, a variety of seizures were made by police while collecting evidence related to alleged smuggling activities. Some of these seizures included the following:

  • A shipment of cannabis weighing 339.5 lbs that was destined for Europe (estimated value of $1,356,000.00 CDN);
  • 22 skids of undeclared tobacco with an approximate weight of 33,000 lbs (estimated value of $230,000);
  • 45,000 cannabis plants and over 20,000 lbs. of processed cannabis (estimated value of $62,792,000.00);
  • 80 Kilograms of cocaine (valued at approximately $3,200,000.00) was seized by authorities in Canada and the United States. 

The totality of the investigation and the warrants that were executed in Brampton, Milton, Niagara Falls, Thorold, Etobicoke, Mississauga, Woodbridge, Richmond Hill, and Hamilton resulted in numerous charges laid against several individuals, along with the seizure of 3,007.5 lbs. of cannabis (valued at $3,007,500), 136.3 grams of cocaine (valued at $13,630), 3 handguns, 2 shotguns, a rifle, 1650 rounds of ammunition, 6 stolen vehicles, and over $467 000 in currency.

Charges were laid for various offences against 20 Ontario men. 

In addition to the NRPS, PRP and RCMP, several law enforcement agencies worked as part of this parallel investigation throughout the duration of Project Gateway including: Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), FBI Buffalo International Organized Crime Task Force (BIOCTF), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, multiple units/sections from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Windsor Police Service, Lasalle Police Service, Chatham Police Service, York Regional Police, Gatineau Police Service, Hamilton Police Service, Toronto Police Service, and Halton Police Service.

More info here: https://www.youtube.com/user/NiagRegPolice