Ontario police squash massive illegal cannabis network and confiscate over 100k plants
Ontario Provincial Police and their partners just completed a 12-month-long investigation into a massive illegal cannabis network, resulting in the seizure of $2.5 million, more than 100,000 illegal cannabis plants, and 1,921 pounds of illegal cannabis.
Dubbed Project WOOLWICH, the OPP worked with several partners including the Provincial Joint Forces Cannabis Enforcement Team (PJFCET), Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB), the Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit (PAFU), and more to put a halt to the illegal production and distribution activities, arrest eight individuals and lay 213 charges.
"The criminal enterprise involved in this illegal network has been exploiting the Health Canada medical, personal and designate cannabis production regime by diverting cannabis authorized to be grown for medical purposes to the illegal market," reads a release from the OPP.
"They have been involved in the production, wholesale distribution and sale of illegal cannabis."
$42M estimated tax loss from illegal #Cannabis operation dismantled by #OPP #PJFCET and partners. Project WOOLWICH resulted in 8 arrests, 213 charges laid. $2.5M in Canadian currency +100,000 illegal cannabis plants, 1,921 pounds of illegal cannabis seized https://t.co/BIITEFCxjy pic.twitter.com/vqZ4GWcW0b— Ontario Provincial Police (@OPP_News) August 21, 2020
According to the release, investigators executed 26 warrants on Aug. 13 in numerous locations including Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Jordan, Simcoe, Markham, Canfield, Welland, Leamington, Scarborough, Richmond Hill and British Columbia.
There was also an international component to the operation as investigators seized shipments of illegal cannabis destined for the U.S. as well as two large shipments of U.S. currency destined for Canada.
Those involved in the network were also responsible for large-volume shipments of illegal cannabis from British Columbia to Ontario.
"The illegal cannabis trade is dominated by organized crime and they often change methods of transportation, production and distribution. This criminal enterprise may not be a known organized crime group, but they are people with power, influence and money and are extremely opportunistic," said Detective Inspector Jim Walker of the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau in a statement.
"Criminals are exploiting the Health Canada medical cannabis personal and designate production regime by diverting the cannabis to the illegal market and are profiting greatly from this illegal activity."
As a result of the investigation, police seized a total of:
All told, the duty loss for the illegal cannabis seized is estimated at more than $42 million.
Purchase cannabis legally online @ONCannabisStore or in-person at @Ont_AGCO private retailer. Purchasing cannabis from anywhere other than OCS/authorized private retailer could lead to a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 1 year https://t.co/BIITEFCxjy pic.twitter.com/WrbDIfaRoC— Ontario Provincial Police (@OPP_News) August 21, 2020
The eight individuals that were arrested following this investigation have been handed numerous charges, including distribution, production and sale of cannabis under the Cannabis Act, as well as charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.
The OPP says the investigation is still ongoing and that a complete list of names and associated charges will be released in the coming days.
The accused have been released for now, but they're set to appear at St. Catharines Ontario Court of Justice on Sept. 17, 2020.
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