Delta police say an investigation into local trafficking has led to the disruption of an $18-million drug operation with links to both the Hells Angels and the UN gang.
So far, more than a dozen people have been arrested and major amounts of drugs seized along with firearms, cash and vehicles.
Search warrants were executed late last month at two Delta locations, as well as three commercial buildings in Richmond, Delta police public affairs coordinator Cris Leykauf said in a news release.
She said the probe began in August after community members raised concerns about “drug-dealing in South Delta.” The probe split into two branches — one dubbed “Project Rolling Thunder” and the other, “Project Big Smoke.”
As part of Rolling Thunder, police seized $193,000 in cash; about $70,000 worth of engagement rings; ATVs; Harley Davidsons, including one with a support sticker for the Hells Angels; and several other vehicles — some with secret compartments; a Walther Waffenfabrik 9mm-calibre pistol with loaded magazine; a Swiss Arms .22-calibre pistol, a Heckler and Koch .40-calibre pistol; and an SKS-style assault rifle.
Also seized were hundreds of individually packaged amounts of methamphetamine, fentanyl, crack cocaine, ecstasy and Oxycodone, as well as 330 grams of magic mushrooms and 32 kilograms of illicit cannabis.
“What had started as a response to community frustration over street-level drug-dealing, quickly grew into a significant investigation for our Crime Reduction Unit,” Delta Supt. Kelly Young said. “In addition to the drugs and firearms seizures, our initial search warrants yielded even more information to keep the investigation going.”
The Richmond buildings searched Oct. 28 were all suspected to be large-scale, illicit, cannabis-growing operations misusing medical marijuana licences.
The Big Smoke end of the probe resulted in the seizure of more than 18,000 pot plants and 633 kg of dried cannabis.
“Investigators believe these sites were capable of producing approximately $18 million annually of black market cannabis sales,” Young said.
Investigators believe the operation was being run by organized crime and found evidence of links to both the Hells Angels and the UN gang.
While no one has yet been charged, several civil forfeiture suits have been filed by the B.C. government against properties, cash and items seized in the investigation. Named as defendants in the forfeiture suits are Surrey residents Gill Thomas Rajpaul Bergen, Aleksandr Leonidovitch Shtraimish and Jan Otto Backstrom; Delta residents Norval Hume McLennan and Shawn Brabander; Richmond residents Cole Chalmers Svensen and Shawn William Edmunds; as well as Umair Kasim of Coquitlam.
More forfeiture cases are also expected to be filed.