Project Targets Gun Smuggling Network

Patrick D Costa

A Toronto and York Territorial Police Administrations drove joint powers gun examination brought about the capture of 173 weapons alongside drugs and other returns of wrongdoing.

Moneypenny, a year-long cross-border firearms trafficking investigation that began in March 2022, has resulted in 42 arrests and 422 criminal charges.

Project Zorro was launched in July 2022 by the Guns, Gangs, and Drug Enforcement Unit of the York Regional Police Service. Undercover investigators were successful in obtaining quantities of fentanyl, cocaine, and 25 firearms from identified individuals during the initial phases of both investigations.

The United States supplied the majority of the guns seized in both investigations.

The two investigations were combined in September 2022 with the assistance of Criminal Intelligence Services Ontario and Firearms Analysis and Training Enforcement to increase the likelihood of a successful investigation.

Dismantling the smuggling network and locating and prosecuting those accountable for the illegal activities were the primary goals of the joint investigation.

A total of 49 search warrants were executed in Toronto, Peel, and Durham between November 2022 and March 2023.

87 handguns were found in a vehicle driven by an Arizona resident in Chicago as part of the investigation. Canada was the destination for the firearms.

On April 11, during a press conference held at police headquarters, Deputy Chief Rob Johnson stated that bubble wrap was used to protect the guns from damage.

He stated, “Then, they were wrapped in holiday paper in an effort to avoid detection by border security.” After that, the firearms were packed in suitcases and loaded into the back of the resident’s car.

Additionally, three sets of body armor, cocaine, and other items indicative of firearm possession and trafficking were seized by police.

Johnson stated, “Our police work must also spread across borders as the work of organized crime does.” Driven by devoted officials from policing in both Canada and the US, we have disturbed criminal associations and their unlawful exercises to bring about some benefit for individuals in our city and in urban areas across Ontario and Canada.”

During the news conference, more than 80 firearms were on display, including rifles with large magazines and handguns with large magazines and switches that allow them to fire automatically.

According to Johnson, police are holding organized crime responsible for jeopardizing the well-being and safety of communities, friends, and family through Project Moneypenny.

He emphasized, “Make no mistake, we are preventing activities that diminish the quality of life for our citizens when we take violent criminals off the streets, not to mention guns, drugs, and other proceeds of crime.”

The Durham Regional Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Canada Border Services Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were also involved in the investigation.

Johnson expressed gratitude to the organizations for their dedication and ongoing commitment to maintaining the city’s safety, including the Toronto Drug Squad, the Toronto Police Service’s Integrated Gun & Gang Task Force, and Intelligence Services.

Superintendent Steve Watts of Organized Crime Enforcement added, “A seizure of this size is going to save lives and is the result of the dedicated work of many at the Toronto Police Service and our partners in the room today.”

According to Deputy Chief Alvaro Almeida of the York Regional Police Service, the objective of every law enforcement agency is to keep citizens safe.

He added, “Rest assured, we will not be discouraged from pursuing this goal.” I would like to express my sincere gratitude to each and every officer from each and every service that was a part of this investigation for their tenacity in carrying out this investigation and bringing it to a successful conclusion.

OPP Chief Superintendent Paul Mackey stated that today’s communities are safer as a result of the significant gun seizure.

He stated, “The coordinated approach of the partners, including members of the OPP Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit, lies in the success of this investigation.” We have collectively conveyed our firm commitment to identifying and pursuing those who pose a threat to the public.

Chris Taylor, the ATF Attache to Canada, and Bryan Berryman, the Assistant Country Attaché ATF Canada, said in a joint statement that the success of Operation Moneypenny shows how well they worked together to stop illegal firearms from entering Canada.

“We are glad for ATF’s work in this examination and respected to group with our Canadian policing to diminish fierce firearm wrongdoing,” they added.

The blamed have showed up in court and will be remanded to the Ontario Courtroom Toronto on April 14.

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