$17M in Drugs Seized

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:21 a.m. May 9, 2019

In making eight arrests and seizing a huge quantity of drugs and cash, police believe they have dismantled a major criminal organization.

A man at a podium with tables with plastic bags with wrapped substances, some pill form, other dried marijuana
Drug Squad Inspector Don Belanger speaks to media in front of drugs and cash alleged to have been seized in Project Dos

A total of $17 million in street value of drugs and $308,000 in cash were seized during the execution of 29 search warrants across the city.

“It is certainly the largest seizure that I am aware of in relation to the Toronto Police Service and I would suggest it’s likely the largest seizure in Canada by a police service,” said Insp. Don Belanger, at a news conference at police headquarters on May 9.

Don Belanger said experts estimate the drugs, precursors and cutting agents uncovered in Project DOS have a potential street value of $17 million.

“The results of this investigation are truly impressive and will have a direct impact on disrupting the supply of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and black market cannabis to the streets of Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe,” he said.

While some of these search warrants were executed at the residences of the accused individuals, a significant number were executed on vehicles linked to the accused as well as storage rooms.

“Much of the seized contraband was located in lockers and condos that were being used as stash houses,” said Belanger.

He said an additional seven kilograms was seized from a vehicle police allege is linked to a couple – Quoc Pham and his wife Thi Thuy Van Nguyen, who reside in the Keele St. & Wilson Ave. area – who were among the suspects arrested.

Black metal object white powder in bags and a wrapped brick
A drug press, bricks of cocaine and bags of phenacetin (a substance used as a cutting agent in powder cocaine)

The other individuals arrested are Duc Duy Pham, Ai He and Amanda King who are all 32 years of age, 19-year-old Mario Palmero, Hung Phi Nguyen, 34, and 26-year-old Ryan Yetman.

The stash houses and storage located were located across the city.

The drugs seized include cocaine, marijuana, ephedrine and phenacetin.

Investigators located 20 kilograms of phenacetin in a storage locker that they believe to be associated to Duc Pham.

While not illegal to possess in Canada, phenacetin is used by drug dealers to cut or dilute cocaine to maximize profits.

“The unprecedented amount of precursor and cutting agents uncovered in this investigation is indicative of the sophistication and scope of this distribution ring,” said Belanger. “The amount of phenacetin is indicative of this group’s ability to purchase cocaine at the source and then maximize profits by diluting it with additives to then be sold at street level drug dealers.”

Nearly 29 kilograms of cocaine with the potential to generate street level profits of $3 million, 3,905 marijuana plants, 232 kilos of dried and packaged marijuana that could potentially generate a profit of $2.3 million and more than 700 kilograms of ephedrine were also seized.

Belanger said the investigation led to a marijuana grow operation in Kitchener.

“Despite having been issued a license by Health Canada to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes, it is our allegation that this grow operation exceeded its allowable grow limit by an astounding 3,905 plants,” he said. “Based on a conservative estimate that one marijuana plant can produce 250 grams of dried marijuana, 3,905 plants have the potential to generate profits of close to $10 million.”

plastic bags with white pills
Ephedrine, used as a precursor drug in the production of crystal methamphetamine, alleged to have been seized in Project Dos

The ephedrine, which according to drug experts is sold to crystal meth producers for about $3,000 per kilogram, was located in a garage.

“It is our belief that this quantity of ephedrine was destined for a methamphetamine production lab or labs,” said Belanger. “This is all the more concerning when history has taught us that meth labs are highly volatile, prone to explosion and needless to say present a serious risk to public safety. That aspect of our investigation is ongoing.”

Belanger joined Supt. Steven Watts of the Organized Crime Enforcement Management team in commending the Major Projects Section.

 “As you have heard and as you can see before you, the results of this investigation are truly impressive and will have a direct impact on disrupting the supply of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and black market cannabis to the streets of Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe,” said Watts, who acknowledged the assistance received from the Waterloo Regional Police, the provincial Cannabis Enforcement Team, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada and Canada Border Services Agency.

He also thanked the Toronto Police Organized Crime Enforcement sub-units, including the Toronto Drug Squad Clan Lab and Street-Level Enforcement teams, the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force firearms enforcement unit and street level teams, the Asian Organized Crime Task Force and Financial Crimes Asset Forfeiture.

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