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Project Otter: Ontario police seize $1 million in drugs, including deadly fentanyl

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“Pure fentanyl seized during this investigation could have amounted to over 27 million potentially lethal doses”

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The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service (SSMPS) and its policing counterparts in Durham Region and Thunder Bay have seized $1 million in various drugs, including potentially deadly fentanyl.

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The massive amount of fentanyl seized in Sault Ste. Marie — just over 700 grams, which police officials estimate is equivalent to 70,000 potentially fatal doses — represents a record, one-time confiscation for the northwestern Ontario community of about 73,000, SSMPS reports.

Fentanyl is potentially lethal

“Two milligrams of pure fentanyl (equivalent to just a few grains of salt) is enough to kill the average adult,” notes information from the Criminal defence firm, Armoured Suits.

Citing a report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the RCMP notes this depends on “a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage. Therefore, the pure fentanyl seized during this investigation could have amounted to over 27 million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.”

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As part of Project Otter, units with the SSMPS, the Durham Regional Police Service and the Thunder Bay Police Service executed two search warrants in Sault Ste. Marie (one involving a property and the other a seized vehicle) on Jan. 16 and two in Durham Region, one apiece in Oshawa and Whitby.

The investigation was carried out between September 2022 and January 2023, according to an earlier SSMPS statement.

Police photo of methamphetamine confiscated during recent raids. /
Police photo of methamphetamine confiscated during recent raids. / Photo by Sault Ste. Marie Police Service

In the Sault, the estimated street value of the approximately 703 grams of fentanyl, about 900 grams of methamphetamine, around 320 grams of cocaine, about $74,000 in Canadian currency and a stolen vehicle was $470,000.

As for the Durham Region, searches there revealed about six kilograms of methamphetamine and about $50,000 in Canadian, U.S. and Jamaican currency. The estimated street value of the drugs seized is $620,000.

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The total for all drugs confiscated is $1,090,000.

Five individuals arrested in connection with raids

Beyond the seizures, five accused were arrested in connection with the Sault Ste. Marie raid, the SSMPS reports.

The five individuals range in age from 18 to 41. Chief Hugh Stevenson of the SSMPS said some suspects were on bail for drug-related offences when they were arrested, according to CTV News.

All five individuals have been arrested for multiple counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime, police information notes. Additionally, a 25-year-old also faces four counts of failing to comply with a release order.

“We continually see people on release, whether it’s violent crimes like this, or regular property crimes in this city, the deterrent effect of the justice system has been impacted by Bill C-75,” CTV News quotes Chief Stevenson as saying.

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Police-supplied photo of a car that was seized after executing search warrants in Sault Ste. Marie. /
Police-supplied photo of a car that was seized after executing search warrants in Sault Ste. Marie. / Photo by Sault Ste. Marie Police Service

Information from the federal government notes that among the many changes, the bill modernizes and clarifies bail provisions, restricts the availability of preliminary inquiries, streamlines the classification of offences and expands judicial case management powers.

“Removing this poison from our community will save lives,” Chief Stevenson says in the latest police statement of the fentanyl found in the Sault.

“We are committed to identifying traffickers in our community. We will seize their assets and bring them before the courts,” the chief emphasizes.

Trafficking of substance like fentanyl, meth carry minimum sentences

Per Armoured Suits, “production of fentanyl carries a minimum sentence of two years imprisonment, which increases to a minimum of three years if certain aggravating factors (related to health and safety) are present.”

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The mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking substances like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin or cannabis is one year per count upon conviction, adds information from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

There have been several significant fentanyl and methamphetamine busts announced in recent months.

Earlier this month, the B.C. RCMP reported it and its partners had stopped 27 million doses of potentially lethal fentanyl from hitting the streets thanks to a raid on a drug super lab in Abbotsford. The lab synthetic drug operation also showed evidence of producing fentanyl, ecstasy and cannabis extracts.

In all, police confiscated $20,000 in cash, a cache of precursor chemicals for producing fentanyl (enough to make 50 kg of pure fentanyl), almost 318 kg of cannabis, about 16.3 kg of crystal methamphetamine and 4 kg of pure fentanyl.

Also this month, a find involving almost $4 million worth of meth sparked more joint coordination between Hong Kong and Canadian authorities. Recently, 34 kilograms of meth and 38 kg of cannabis was found in a shipment of 57 piles of ceiling tiles, which originated in Canada and had been hollowed out in the centre to conceal the illicit cargo.

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