Police break up Edmonton-area operation that smuggled drugs into central Alberta prison

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Alberta police have busted an 11-member drug trafficking ring operating in the Edmonton area that smuggled drugs into the Bowden Institution south of Red Deer.

The network conspired to move drugs into the prison system, establishing connections to the federal medium-security prison near Bowden, says a news release issued Tuesday by Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams.

"This was a very well-organized, well-co-ordinated group," said Staff Sgt. Blayne Eliuk of ALERT Edmonton.

"By introducing drugs into the prison system, this substantially put the health and safety of not only inmates, but also corrections staff and officers, at risk."

The lengthy investigation began in June 2019 led by ALERT's Edmonton's organized crime team, with the assistance of Correctional Service Canada, St. Albert RCMP, Morinville RCMP, Innisfail RCMP, Edmonton Police Service and Winnipeg Police Service.

A total of 60 criminal charges have been laid against 11 suspects.

During searches of homes in St. Albert and Edmonton police seized drugs and cash worth about $300,000. Included in the seizures was fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis, as well as a handgun with its serial number removed and $206,000 in cash.

The 11 suspects, ranging in age from 23 to 31, lived primarily in Edmonton and St. Albert.

Two were incarcerated at Bowden Institution during the course of the investigation.

ALERT, funded by the Alberta government, is a compilation of the province's law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.