Alberta police and U.S. officials have seized millions of dollars worth of drugs, cash and guns and charged a Calgary man alleged to be at the centre of a massive drug network.
More than $15 million worth of drugs, roughly $4.5 million in cash and assets and 13 firearms were seized through Project Coyote, a two-year investigation led by Calgary officers, said Dwayne Lakusta, head of Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
Lakusta said at a news conference Thursday the bust includes what is believed to be the largest fentanyl seizure in Canada.
ALERT alleges that the man at the centre of this drug scheme is Warren Lowe, 53, of Calgary.
In February 2018, ALERT received a tip that allowed them to find and seize 250,000 fentanyl pills from a downtown Calgary apartment. No one was home and no arrests were made.
Officials later identified a major cocaine distribution line and importation scheme that extended south of the border, said ALERT Calgary Acting Insp. Shawn Wallace.
With the help of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Texas, an 81-kilogram shipment of cocaine was intercepted in Houston on May 18.
A Calgary woman, Elizabeth Fisher, 49, was arrested at the time and remains in a Texas prison. She is due to appear in court on March 2. A Canadian warrant has also been issued for her arrest.
That cocaine seizure and arrest was the catalyst for police to execute search warrants and arrests in Canada.
"We were not satisfied arresting the couriers, the mules. We wanted the financiers, the heads of the organization and the people calling the shots," said Wallace.
Wallace said the agency alleges Lowe oversaw this extensive drug network, which extended from British Columbia to Ontario and established cocaine supply lines.
Lowe is facing 23 charges related to organized crime, drugs and firearms.
Joint agency effort
More than 30 search warrants were executed over the course of the investigation, and the most recent arrest took place Oct. 3.
Seven people have been arrested and are facing 77 criminal charges, according to ALERT:
- Warren Lowe, 53, from Calgary.
- Elizabeth Fisher, 49, from Calgary.
- Richard Fisher, 44, from Calgary.
- Emanuel Amha, 30, from Calgary.
- Olivier Kenge, 52, from Calgary.
- Cole Leblanc, 30, man from Calgary.
- Victoria Pon, 29, from Vancouver.
"Never in my 22-year policing career have I experienced an investigation that rivalled this type of complexity and co-ordination," said Wallace.
The investigation was a joint effort involving the Calgary Police Service, the RCMP, the DEA, the Canada Revenue Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and several regional Canadian law enforcement agencies from B.C. to Ontario. The investigation is ongoing.
Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).