Peel Police Seize Over $25 Million in Illegal Drugs in Major Cross-Border Trafficking Case
Peel Regional Police say they seized illegal drugs worth more than $25 million after an 11-month investigation into a smuggling ring between Canada and the United States.
Police say they have charged five men, aged 27 to 46, with trafficking in the investigation dubbed ‘Project Zucaritas’, which means sweet cereal in Spanish, a label police allegedly found on some of the packaging of the dope.
Det.-Sgt. Earl Scott, the lead investigator for the Zucaritas Project team and a member of Peel Police’s specialist law enforcement office, told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that the seizure was the most important in the history of the force. He alleged that some of the drugs were concealed in the back of commercial tractor-trailers in shipments of legitimate cargo.
“We identified the fact that they were passing through commercial trucks, crossing the border and hiding in the commercial trucks,” he said.
The five accused are from Caledon, Brampton, Mississauga and Richmond Hill, Ont. Police allege the group ran businesses to transport illegal drugs from the United States to the Greater Toronto Area.
Four of the five appeared in court and had their bail hearing. One of the five is being held in the United States on a warrant issued by the Northern District of Illinois for violating US drug conspiracy laws. Peel Police have issued a warrant for his arrest.
Police said they seized 383 kilograms of cocaine, methamphetamine and ketamine with an estimated street value of $25.25 million. The seizure includes 182 kilograms of methamphetamine, 166 kilograms of cocaine and 38 kilograms of ketamine. Officers seized about $70,000 in Canadian currency but did not recover any firearms, police said.
Officers from the Peel Police Specialized Law Enforcement Bureau began investigating in November 2021 with assistance from the US Department of Homeland Security in Detroit and Chicago and the United States Security Task Force. border enforcement in Buffalo.
Scott said police have identified two businesses that officers are calling « transfer centers » that are believed to be involved in distributing illegal drugs. The companies are North King Logistics, a commercial trucking company, located at 50 Steeles Ave. in Milton, and Friend Furniture, a furniture company, located at 2835 Argentia Rd. in Mississauga.
Once the drugs arrived in Canada, police said the shipments were taken to one of two transfer centers, where they were prepared for distribution in the GTA.
Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich, who also spoke at the press conference, said the drugs on display at the press conference are proof that the police are committed to fighting organized crime.
“What you see here before you serves as further evidence of our collective commitment to stamping out organized crime and the kind of organized crime that targets our communities,” Milinovich said.
« This is a priority for our service, our community, and we will not tolerate criminals who profit by preying on members of our community and using those profits to fund other criminal activity. »
Milinovich said police encourage people struggling with addictions to get help.