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279 charges laid in record OPP weapons bust

By CJ Goater Feb 23, 2024 | 3:31 PM

A record amount of guns have been stopped from hitting the streets of Ontario protecting communities province-wide.

The Ontario Provincial Police and the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit have seized 274 illegal firearms, including 168 in the US and 106 in Ontario marking the largest seizure of handguns and assault-style rifles in the province’s history.

The investigation began in early 2023 when the OPP and Homeland Security began looking into two individuals who were seeking to traffic firearms in the Greater Toronto Area.

The OPP initiated Project Saxom in Ontario with support from HSI and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, while in the US Homeland Security Buffalo initiated Project Dual Approach which HSI Miami, OPP and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives supported.

As a result of Project Dual Approach, 168 illegal firearms were intercepted before they could be smuggled into Ontario.

Project Saxom utilized traditional investigative techniques, including covert operations, to infiltrate a group of individuals seeking to traffic firearms in the Greater Toronto Area. As the investigation progressed, additional suspects from five distinct criminal networks were identified.

In addition to trafficking firearms, the OPP also discovered that several of the accused were also trafficking illicit drugs.

In Ontario, the OPP executed 17 search warrants at locations in the GTA and Niagara Region on February 13 and February 14, 2024.

The results of Ontario’s Project Saxom included the seizure of a total of 106 illegal firearms, some of which were loaded.

Seized items include:

  • 88 illegal handguns including restricted and prohibited handguns and AK-47-style and AR-15-style prohibited pistols/handguns. This includes two restricted handguns (.40 calibre) that had been converted to fully automatic firearms.
  • 18 long guns. This includes non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited rifles and one shotgun.
  • 118 prohibited devices. This includes one silencer, one conducted energy weapon, 20 brass knuckles, 22 prohibited knives and 74 prohibited firearm magazines. One of the prohibited firearm magazines is a “drum magazine” (for a handgun that holds 50 rounds of .40cal ammunition), and other over-capacity magazines that have the ability to hold between 11 and 31 rounds of ammunition.
  • Approximately 1,700 rounds of ammunition.
  • Approximately 23 kilograms of methamphetamine.
  • More than 1 kilogram of high-potency fentanyl, equivalent to 60,000 to 70,000 street-level doses.
  • 688 suspected fentanyl pills.
  • 1.3 kilograms of suspected cocaine.
  • 197 grams of suspected heroin.
  • 877 opioid pills.
  • 280 grams of suspected psilocybin.
  • 432 grams of an unknown substance and 20 unknown prescription pills.
  • $63,332 in Canadian currency.
  • $4,689 in US currency.

The potential street value of the illicit drugs and illegal firearms seized in Ontario is approximately $3.25 million.

This investigation resulted in 16 arrests in Ontario.

One individual, a 35-year-old St. Catharines resident remains wanted.

In total, the OPP has laid 279 charges under the Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

“Illegal firearms pose a serious risk to public safety. They are often used by organized crime groups, including street gangs, to broaden and secure drug trafficking networks,” said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique. “They are also used in violent crimes including robberies, carjackings, intimidation, extortion and homicide. By working collaboratively with US policing partners, the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit will continue to combat the smuggling and trafficking of illegal firearms within the Province of Ontario.”

Six of the accused are subject to lifetime firearms prohibition bans, one accused was on full parole, and another was on Statutory Release.

Project Saxom’s investigation remains ongoing.