Toronto Police led a joint forces investigation that resulted in the largest international drug takedown in the Service’s history.
Over a thousand kilograms of illegal drugs and nearly $1 million in cash were seized after the launch of a seven-month investigation, Project Brisa, in November 2020.
A total of 444 kilos of cocaine, 182 kilos of crystal meth, 427 kilos of marijuana, 300 oxycodone pills, 21 vehicles, including five tractor-trailers, $966,020 and a firearm were seized.
The street value of the drugs is estimated to be more than $61 million.
A total of 35 search warrants were executed across Canada, leading to the arrest of 20 people, including a youth. They are facing 182 charges.
Two other suspects are outstanding and warrants have been issued for their arrest.
They are William Nhan, 23, and Scott McManus, 38, both of Toronto.
Police are alleging that tractor-trailers, equipped with hydraulic traps capable of smuggling up to 100 kilograms of illicit substances at a time, were used.
At a news conference on June 22, Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said the quantity of drugs seized is staggering.
“The removal of this quantity of drugs destined for the streets of our respective communities has without question prevented countless overdoses, acts of drug-related violence like shootings, and other occurrences that diminish the quality of life for our citizens,” he said.
“These seizures diverted millions and millions of dollars in drug profits from organized criminals who choose to put personal profits ahead to the well-being of our communities, our colleagues, our neighbours, our friends, and our families. The social cost that this amount of illicit drugs inflicts on society is immeasurable.”
Ramer thanked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Windsor Police Service, Montreal Police and FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada) for their assistance.
He said the project uncovered what police allege to be criminal connections stretching from Vancouver to Halifax domestically and throughout the United States into Mexico.
Toronto Police also collaborated with the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
“As policing continues to evolve and we seek better ways to address community safety and quality of life issues, I cannot stress enough the importance of partnerships and collaboration,” added Ramer. “This investigation was strategic, intelligence led, and was carried out in a manner that focused on preventing harm and improving community safety and well-being. What you see before you is the direct result of the extreme dedication of our investigators and their countless support staff.
“I wish to thank all our law enforcement partners, the men and women of the Toronto Police Service and the members of Drug Squad for their tireless dedication and their truly remarkable contribution to community safety.”
Chief Supt. Paul Mackey of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) thanked Toronto Police and the other law enforcement agencies for their engagement in the impactful investigation.
“We are collectively fighting for the same outcome – to remove harmful substances from our streets and stem the flow of illegal commodities across our borders,” he said. “This being the largest major project in the Toronto Police Service’s Drug Squad history brings credit to all agencies involved, and the OPP is pleased to have contributed to this remarkable investigation.
“Despite there being restrictions at our borders and despite an ongoing global pandemic, these criminals continue to compromise the safety of our citizens. These complex investigations require many officers working endless hours collaborating their intelligence and investigative techniques. Teamwork is what brings the impressive results you’re seeing here today.”
York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said collaboration of police agencies is the only way to target large scale criminal enterprises and effectively deter and disrupt widespread drug trafficking networks.
“When such networks are operating across three countries, Canada, the United States and Mexico, ongoing collaboration between agencies, including CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) is vital,” he said. “We are very proud of these partnerships and we know they are effective. For all of us, our collective goal is community safety.”
The CBSA also assisted the police agencies in Project Brisa.
“The CBSA is the first line of defence in protecting our country from drugs and other contraband,” said David Glos, the CBSA Director of Enforcement & Intelligent Operations. “Our personnel work diligently to prevent the smuggling of narcotics into Canada and to keep them off our streets.”
Throughout the project, investigators identified a person known as the ‘Trap Maker’ who was allegedly responsible for building hidden compartments within the tractor-trailers for the purposes of smuggling large amounts of contraband across borders.
Jason Hall, 43, of Surrey, British Columbia, turned himself into police in Toronto last week and is charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and participation in a criminal organization.
Supt. Steve Watts of the Organized Crime Enforcement Unit said the hydraulic traps used to hide the drugs were high-level.
“They were sophisticated to the point where X-rays weren’t able to penetrate them,” he pointed out.
Watts is urging the outstanding suspects to turn themselves into police.
“My message is to have your legal counsel contact our investigators and surrender yourself at the earliest opportunity and deal with it,” he added.
‘Brisa’ is Spanish for breeze.
“The initial seizure was from a tractor-trailer carrying a load of hairdryers,” said Insp. Tyrone Hilton who leads the Toronto Police Drug Squad. “That’s where the name of the operation came from.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at (416) 808-2500, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook.