Eleven people — many of whom are well known to Alberta law enforcement — face 127 separate charges in a $4.1-million Calgary drug bust, one of the largest ever in the province.
Representatives of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) gave details on the massive haul of illicit drugs, cash and firearms during a Wednesday morning news conference, a multi-agency effort to dismantle a Canada-wide drug trafficking and money laundering enterprise headquartered in Calgary.
Titled Project Offshore, the fruits of the year-long investigation represents the agency’s fifth-largest seizure of illegal drugs in its history — as well as its biggest seizure of fentanyl, taking 15,757 of the dangerous pills off the streets.
“Given the health crisis our communities have faced over opioid abuse, there’s no doubt in my mind that lives have been saved,” Insp. Patty McCallum said at the news conference.
“This was a complex and robust investigation that deployed a variety of specialized resources and police techniques.”
While declining to elaborate on the specifics of the investigation, McCallum said search warrants were executed on 11 homes throughout the investigation.
In addition to fentanyl — which investigators believe came into Alberta from B.C. — police confiscated almost seven kilograms of cocaine powder, 1.5 kilograms of crack and more than 100 OxyContin pills.
Also seized was 27 kilograms of methamphetamine — another record seizure for ALERT.
The scope of the trafficking enterprise, McCallum said, was far-reaching, spanning from Vancouver as far east as the Maritimes.
Overall, Project Offshore was the fifth-largest drug seizure in ALERT’s history.
Police also seized 11 handguns, some with serial numbers filed off and others illegally modified into fully automatic firearms.
Also seized were batons, machetes, electronic stun guns, body armour and a plethora of drug-related paraphernalia.
Many of the 11 charged are no strangers to police.
Simon Yuen, 34, identified by ALERT as one of four key figures in the Calgary trafficking operation, was one of two men who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2006 killing of 21-year-old Richard Barkhouse.
Yuen faces nine charges, including possession, trafficking and weapons offences.
He’s also the owner of a multimillion-dollar mansion in north Calgary seized by ALERT as part of the investigation — one they allege was financed through the proceeds of a “profitable drug trafficking operation.”
Behnam Fayaz, another key player who is facing the bulk of the charges, was the target of a separate ALERT bust in Edmonton earlier this year.
The 31-year-old was arrested in May as part of a sweep that netted $50,000 worth of drugs, guns and cash.
In 2007, Fayaz was arrested for weapons offences in his hometown of Toronto after a fight outside a downtown night club.
His 31 charges include offences relating to organized crime, drugs and weapons possession.
Chang Yong Yun, 37, who faces 11 charges, served five years in prison for fatally stabbing 33-year-old James Larter in a downtown Calgary condominium in 2009.
Facing nine charges, Danny Ho Ming Chui, 36, was arrested in an April 2015 Edmonton police operation that seized nearly $50,000 worth of fentanyl, cocaine and cash.
Also facing charges are: Jonathan Aaron Bejo, 25; Guan Chen, 27; Jia Nan Chen, 29; Hue Thi Do, 39; Jamal Mohamud, 29; Lanssa Yousuf, 28; and Jian Nan Zhao, 28.
Yuen, Mohamud and Chen remain at large, and warrants have been issued for their arrests.
Project Offshore included assistance from agencies including Calgary police, the RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs, Lethbridge police and the Canada Revenue Agency.
Also at Wednesday’s news conference was Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who said the seizure represents the scope of Alberta’s ongoing illegal drug crisis.
“Although the criminal network targeted was based in Calgary, it allegedly trafficked drugs and laundered money throughout Alberta,” she said.
That’s why the provincial government committed $29.1 million in funding for ALERT in 2017, Ganley said, along with $56 million in health spending to address addiction issues.
PROJECT OFFSHORE BY THE NUMBERS
Total number of charges: 127
People charged: 11
Total cash seized: $523,232
Total drugs seized: $4.1 million (est. street value)
15,757 fentanyl pills
28 kg. methamphetamine
6.7 kg. cocaine powder
1.5 kg. crack cocaine
116 OxyContin pills
75 kg. buffing agents
Home-made cocaine presses
ALERT’s largest drug seizures
1. $9.3 million (Edmonton, September 2014)
2. $9.0 million (Edmonton, June 2014)
3. $5.0 million (Calgary, February 2015)
4. $4.8 million (Drumheller, August 2010)
5. $4.1 million (Project Offshore, November 2017)
Alberta’s largest meth seizures:
1. 28 kg. (Calgary, November 2017)
2. 14.5 kg. (Del Bonita border crossing, January 2016)
3. 10.5 kg. (Calgary, September 2013)
4. 9 kg. (Edmonton, June 2016)
5. 9 kg. (Cremona, February 2005)
ALERT’s largest fentanyl seizures:
1. 15,757 pills (Calgary, November 2017)
2. 11.597 pills (Calgary, February 2015)
3. 3,200 pills (Edmonton, December 2015)
4. 3,139 pills (Calgary, August 2017)
5. 2,800 pills (Fort McMurray, June 2015)