Project Folkstone leads to numerous arrests, recovery of illegal weapons and
drugs

TORONTO, March 11 /CNW/ - Numerous individuals have been arrested and charged following a 7 month investigation carried out by the OPP-led Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU), in partnership with York Regional Police, Toronto Police Service, Windsor Police Service, the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

In a joint forces operation, officers executed 28 Criminal Code search warrants on residences and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and in Windsor Ontario.

To date, the investigation, dubbed "Project Folkstone", has resulted in 22 arrests and over 250 criminal charges. The investigation also led to the recovery of over 15 illegal guns, a large quantity of drugs (including over $400,000 of cocaine and $75,000 of marihuana), cash and other property obtained by crime.

Using the Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) approach, Project Folkstone focussed on a criminal organization involved in a cross-border gun smuggling operation that specialized in the trafficking of illegal guns in the GTA. The investigation revealed that this criminal organization was illegally smuggling guns into Canada from the U.S. in addition to trafficking various drugs including cocaine, heroin and marihuana.

The investigation is ongoing and further charges are pending. To date, police have charged:

    
    1.  Francesco Serrano, age 27 of Markham, ON with; Participate in
        activities of a criminal organization, Commission of offence for a
        criminal organization, Instructing commission of an offence for a
        criminal organization, Conspiracy to traffic heroin, Conspiracy to
        traffic marihuana, Conspiracy to traffic cocaine, Trafficking
        marihuana, Trafficking cocaine, and Attempt to disarm a police
        officer. He is currently in custody and is scheduled to appear at
        court in Newmarket on March 11, 2009.

    2.  Philip MacDonald, age 39 of Toronto, ON with; Participate in
        activities of a criminal organization, Commission of offence for a
        criminal organization, Instructing commission of an offence for a
        criminal organization, Conspiracy to traffic marihuana, Conspiracy to
        traffic cocaine, Trafficking Marihuana, Possession of marihuana for
        the purpose of trafficking, Trafficking cocaine, Weapons trafficking,
        and Possession of restricted weapons. He is currently in custody and
        is scheduled to appear at court in Newmarket on March 11, 2009.

    3.  Vanz Rivero, age 31, of Vaughn, ON with; Possession of restricted
        weapons, Possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking,
        Trafficking cocaine, Participate in activities of a criminal
        organization, and Commission of offence for a criminal organization.
        He is currently in custody and is scheduled to appear at court in
        Newmarket on March 11, 2009.

    4.  David Barker, age 39, of Windsor, ON with; Possession of marihuana
        for the purpose of trafficking, Weapons trafficking, and Commission
        of offence for a criminal organization He is currently in custody and
        is scheduled to appear at court in Newmarket on March 11, 2009.

    5.  Jason Tompkins, age 35, of Windsor, ON with; Conspiracy to Commit
        Robbery, Commission of offence for a criminal organization, Import
        firearms, and Trafficking weapons. He is currently in custody and is
        scheduled to appear at court in Newmarket on March 11, 2009.
    

An updated version of this release, with a complete list of persons charged and their related offences will be released as soon as it becomes available.

QUOTES

"The illegal smuggling and selling of guns by organized crime groups poses a grave danger to innocent people in our communities and is frequently associated with the illegal drug trade. The Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit and its policing partners are committed to dismantling these criminal enterprises."

- Julian Fantino, Commissioner, Ontario Provincial Police. (http://www.opp.ca/ecms/index.php?id=22)

"Project Folkstone is a great example of a multi-jurisdictional partnership demonstrating teamwork, which is one of our most cherished values here at York Regional Police. The success of this project is a direct result of police services working together for a common goal - to get firearms off the street."

- Armand P. La Barge, Chief of Police, York Regional Police. (http://www.opp.ca/media/biographies/armand.html)

"This initiative shows how partnership between law enforcement agencies, both domestic and international, can work to advance public safety. This is part of the agency's efforts to fighting crime and keeping our communities safe."

- Rick Comerford, Regional Director General, CBSA. (http://www.opp.ca/media/biographies/rick.html)

"This Operation is another example of the excellent international partnership that ATF and our Canadian law enforcement counterparts have developed, focusing on the suppression of illicit firearms trafficking between our countries. ATF will continue to partner with Canadian law enforcement at the Federal, Provincial and municipal levels to address this important issue common to our shared border."

- Robert Thomas ATF Country Attaché, Supervisory Special Agent - Canada. (http://www.opp.ca/media/biographies/robert.html)

QUICK FACTS

    
    -   The Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit is made up of 13 police
        agencies, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the United
        States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

    -   A substantial number of the handguns used in crimes in Ontario are
        illegally smuggled from the United States.

    -   The Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB) engages in proactive,
        intelligence-led investigations targeting organized crime groups and
        criminality in Ontario.

    -   Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) exists to address the
        issue of illegal guns on Ontario streets and will continue to
        aggressively pursue its mandate.
    

LEARN MORE

The entire media kit, including a backgrounder and digital images of seized crime guns, drugs, money and property is available on-line at these links (English, http://www.opp.ca/ecms/index.php?id=491) (Français, http://www.opp.ca/ecms/index.php?id=492).

    
                                 www.opp.ca

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SOURCE Ontario Provincial Police

For further information: For further information: Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, OPP Corporate Communications Bureau, Phone: (705) 329-6878


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