Drug smuggling operation linked to dozens of overdoses in Simcoe County

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The accused “came to our communities to exploit vulnerable people (…) and take advantage of the drug trafficking networks that were here,” said an OPP official.

The Orillia Police Services Board learned disturbing details on Tuesday about a major drug operation that resulted in several charges being laid in May.

Det Sgt. of the Ontario Provincial Police. Greg Beamer made a presentation at the virtual board meeting and discussed the Garfield project.

The Joint Forces investigation began in December 2020, when police received information about a group of people from the Greater Toronto Area who were traveling to Simcoe County to smuggle cocaine and fentanyl.

Beamer said the suspects were linked to numerous fatal and non-fatal overdoses in Simcoe County, including at least one in Wasaga Beach.

Once they were identified, it was determined that most were linked to Toronto-area street gangs, primarily the West City Crips.

Police learned that they worked in shifts and used a shared cell phone.

“They were treating this drug smuggling like a business,” Beamer said, adding that this allowed the police to charge them with involvement in a criminal organization.

Prior to charges being laid, police launched an undercover operation and bought drugs from suspects in an attempt to identify more of them and determine the scope of their operation.

This led to the identification of other locations where they operated including Orillia, Coldwater, Barrie, Nottawasaga, Huronia West, York, Durham, Oshawa and Toronto. Police services and OPP detachments in these areas participated in the investigation.

“These defendants did not live here. They literally came to our communities to exploit the vulnerable people in the community and take advantage of the drug trafficking networks that were here, ”Beamer said.

Police determined the suspects’ schedules – where they would be and when they would be there.

Officers bought cocaine and fentanyl from suspects in quantities that “had never been seen before” in secret investigations, he said.

The OPP partnered with the Toronto Police Service and the Barrie Police Service as most of the trap houses were in the Barrie area.

“It was a very laborious investigation. It took a lot of resources, ”said Beamer.

When the undercover work was carried out, eight search warrants were executed with the assistance of tactical units. Fourteen people were charged with a total of 149 offenses, including trafficking in cocaine and fentanyl and possession of property obtained by crime.

Police seized 734 grams of cocaine, 53 grams of crack cocaine, 30 hydromorphone tablets and 15 oxycodone tablets. They also seized 427 grams of fentanyl, or 4,270 “fatal shots,” as Beamer explained.

The warrants also led to the seizure of approximately $ 109,000 in Canadian currency, four handguns, five vehicles, drug trafficking accessories and cell phones.

“This was one of the most successful major CSU (Community Safety Unit) projects that has been undertaken in the central region and it has had a direct effect on overdoses in all of these communities,” Beamer said.

Mayor Steve Clarke, Chairman of the Orillia Police Services Board, thanked Beamer and his team for removing “a disgusting amount of poison” from the street.

“Knowing that our criminal unit was involved in this operation is fantastic,” he said.

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