Manitoba investigator, National Microbiology Lab guard charged in massive organized crime drug bust

Drugs and guns seized as part of Project Dawgpound are displayed by RCMP. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Drugs and guns seized as part of Project Dawgpound are displayed by RCMP. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada - image credit)

An investigator with a provincial unit has been swept up in an organized crime bust in Manitoba that resulted in more than 20 people being arrested and multiple kilograms of drugs being seized.

Donavon Sired, 50, is charged with bribery, breach of trust and conspiracy. He's accused of leaking information to drug dealers about police enforcement plans.

He was a member of the special investigations unit for Manitoba Finance, which typically investigates cigarette smuggling.

Project Dawgpound, as the investigation was named by police, started in May 2022 and grew in leaps and bounds, with its scope reaching across the country, said Insp. Grant Stephen, officer in charge of organized crime for Manitoba RCMP.

"Once we saw the totality of what we were looking at, we initiated a full-scale project with a primary target whom we aimed to disrupt."

Josh Crabb/CBC
Josh Crabb/CBC

That target was 36-year-old Hue Ha of Winnipeg, who is accused by RCMP of orchestrating the import of large amounts of cocaine from Ontario.

Police allege Ha or a designate went to Ontario to pick up drugs and unstamped cigarettes and bring them back to Manitoba. They were distributed to communities throughout the province, including Winnipeg, Brandon, Poplar River, St. Laurent, Ashern, Fairford and Gypsumville, police said.

The operation also reached well beyond the province, going into Vancouver, Calgary, Pickering, Ont., Toronto, Moncton, N.B., and Prince Edward Island, police said.

At some point, though, it became apparent that Ha had information about enforcement plans, RCMP said. That leak was tracked to an inside source at Manitoba Finance and further narrowed down to Sired, police allege.

"I'm sure that law enforcement would say when they begin investigations, they don't always know where it'll lead, and sometimes it leads to unexpected places," Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said.

"But it is important that law enforcement follow the evidence and take action … even if it leads to places that are unexpected or, perhaps, disappointing."

He expects Manitoba Finance will conduct its own internal investigation into how the leaks happened.

"Individuals can be lured into this type of activity for a lot of different reasons … but they're not above or immune to the law," Goertzen said.

"Regardless of who you are, or where you work, if you are helping individuals in any way in the distribution or manufacture of drugs, there are consequences."

Ha faces numerous charges, from conspiracy to trafficking, and 20 others from Manitoba and Ontario face a variety of charges.

The accused include a Corps of Commissionaires guard at the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health, the Winnipeg lab complex that includes the National Microbiology Laboratory. RCMP say the guard met with Ha or others in the criminal organization while on lab property, then stored and trafficked drugs while at work.

Josh Crabb/CBC
Josh Crabb/CBC

"The charges laid are concerning and we are calling for an immediate internal investigation into the events that occurred on the grounds of the National Microbiology Laboratory," a spokesperson for the federal minister of health wrote in an emailed statement to CBC News.

"We have also directed our officials to review internal security procedures."

The Public Health Agency of Canada said the guard was let go in January and had limited access to the lab.

"At no time did they have access to sensitive materials," a PHAC spokesperson said in a statement.

"We are reviewing our security operations and working with the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires to strengthen our partnership to ensure security at our facilities."

The Public Health Agency said it is co-operating with investigators.

In total, Project Dawgpound investigators seized:

  • 7.8 kilograms of cocaine.

  • 327 tablets of MDMA (ecstasy).

  • 13.82 kilograms of crystal MDMA (molly).

  • 116 grams of purple down (a mixture of fentanyl, carfentanil and often, heroin).

  • 139.45 grams of carfentanil.

  • 2.06 kilograms of crystal meth.

  • Five kilograms of psilocybin (magic mushrooms).

The project removed more than $2.5 million in drugs from circulation, police say.

"The drugs, guns and proceeds of crime that RCMP officers were able to get off the street through this project is significant and will create a large disruption to the drug networks in this province," said Rob Hill, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP.

Josh Crabb/CBC
Josh Crabb/CBC

Investigators also seized prescription pills, cannabis, hash, shatter (cannabis concentrate), four vehicles, electronic devices, drug trafficking paraphernalia and gang-related patches for the Crazy Indians.

Two handguns, seven semi-automatic rifles, seven shotguns, two rifles and one 3D printed firearm were seized.

The contraband cigarette portion of the operation was worth $1.47 million in tax revenue, RCMP said.

Arrests warrants remain outstanding for two more people, Stephen said.

Josh Crabb/CBC
Josh Crabb/CBC