$45M worth of drugs seized in massive Toronto-area organized crime busts

Police forces in the Toronto area have charged at least 50 people and seized $45 million worth of illegal drugs in two major organized crime busts, York Regional Police said in a news conference on Thursday morning.

Led by the York Regional Police, the two investigations — Project Moon and Project Zen — focused on dismantling drug production and trafficking rings.

In Project Zen, York police worked with the Canada Border Services Agency to zero in on an organized crime ring operating out of a house in Vaughan.

They had first focused on the house after a man standing in front was arrested in 2018 and found to have three kilograms of cocaine on him.

In the months since, police found evidence that several suspects were trafficking large amounts of synthetic drugs.

After searching the house, police found handguns, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine pills and five kilograms of fentanyl — which police say is the largest amount ever seized at one time in York Region.

“This group had access to weapons and they posed a significant threat to our community,” Det-Sgt. Doug Bedford said during Thursday’s news conference.

Eight people were arrested and a total of 38 charges were laid.

Ties to Asian organized crime

Project Moon, meanwhile, spanned southern Ontario and involved the co-operation of several police forces, including the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police.

It focused on the takedown of what York police describe in a release as a “large-scale synthetic drug network” with ties to Asian organized crime and street gangs.

“The suspects were funding their synthetic drug operations through the production and sale of illicit cannabis by abusing the Health Canada medical cannabis licensing system,” police said in the same release.

“Organized crime has manipulated and adapted to the current laws in Canada,” Bedford said during the news conference.

In a series of searches in several Ontario municipalities including Markham, Lindsay and Pefferlaw, police seized cannabis plants and 560 kilograms of dried cannabis, 23 kilograms of methamphetamine, 15,300 MDMA pills, four kilograms of magic mushrooms, 400 Viagra pills and firearms.

Forty-two people were charged as part of Project Moon.

Thursday’s announcement from York police comes on the heels of another major bust, which involved police in Niagara, Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury and focused on biker gangs.

On Wednesday, those forces announced that they dismantled a network selling cocaine, opioids and meth across the province and charged 15 people.

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