Winnipeg police seize $11.5M in assets in major multi-provincial drug bust

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Police Service seized a total of $11.5 million in assets, including drugs, Bitcoin and cars, during a months-long investigation into an multi-provincial drug network between British Columbia and Manitoba.

Officers with the Winnipeg Police Service’s Organized Crime Unit, with the help of a number of other police units, started its investigation, dubbed ‘Project Gold Dust,’ back in May 2020.

During this investigation, officers said they identified multiple members of a local group of traffickers from a drug network known as ‘The Company.’

The investigation then grew into a joint forces operation with the E-Division RCMP – Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit, located in British Columbia.

Officers allege the drug network imported multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine into Winnipeg and distributed the drugs through a “sophisticated operating network of high/mid-level operators and local couriers.”

Police said the drug network’s primary criminal activities entailed transporting cocaine from British Columbia into Winnipeg for distribution, as well as collecting large sums of cash proceeds to give back to British Columbia as payment for the drugs.  

Project Gold Dust

(Cash and firearms seized as part of Project Gold Dust are on display on Feb 24, 2021. CTV News Photo Ken Gabel)

On Feb. 10, 144 police officers executed multiple search warrants in both Winnipeg and British Columbia.

Police executed 13 search warrants in Winnipeg, nine vehicle search warrants in Winnipeg, one search warrant in Surrey, B.C., one search warrant in Vancouver, and two vehicle search warrants in Vancouver.

This resulted in 11 people from Winnipeg and British Columbia being charged with drug-related offences and the seizure of millions in goods.

Police have charged the following 11 people:

  • Thuy Bich Ly, 41, from Winnipeg;
  • Rogelio Saavedra Delacruz, 32, from Winnipeg;
  • Sherwin Dimaapi, 33 from Winnipeg;
  • Jasmine Rose Espiritu, 24, from Winnipeg;
  • Joshua David Espiritu, 25, from Winnipeg;
  • Wilfred Gerein, 63, from Surrey, B.C.;
  • Jamie Graida-Lumarque, 26, from Winnipeg;
  • Johnny Lam, 40, from Vancouver;
  • Louie Lorenzo, 26, from Winnipeg;
  • Khanh Nguyen, 39, from Winnipeg; and
  • Steven Minh Tran, 35, from Winnipeg.

Police said two other men and one woman from Winnipeg were arrested but not charged at this time.

Police said the investigation is ongoing and other arrests and charges are still pending.

 Police investigation

(Officers conduct a search at a home on Haverhill Crescent on Feb 10, 2021 CTV News Photo Ken Gabel).

During these searches, police seized the following items in Winnipeg:

  • 17 kilograms of cocaine with a wholesale value of $1.4 million and a street value of $1.7 million;
  • Three ounces of ecstasy with a street value of $3,000;
  • 21 pounds of cannabis with a street value of $63,000
  • $2 million in cash;
  • $107,000 in Bitcoin;
  • $270,000 from other proceeds of crime, such as Rolex watches and jewelry;
  • 110 kilograms of a cutting agent with a street value of $22,000;
  • Digital scales;
  • Vacuum sealing equipment;
  • Drug packaging material;
  • 41 cell phones;
  • 21 computers; and
  • Four firearms.

Police also seized a number of vehicles with a total value of $230,000, as well residential and commercial properties worth $4,644,000.

In British Columbia, officers seized $700,000 in cash, 23 grams of cocaine valued at $2,300, vehicles with a combined value of $90,500, and two residential properties valued at $3,539,000.

It’s the first-ever seizure of Bitcoin in a Winnipeg police investigation, according to Insp. Max Waddell

None of the charges against the 11 have been proven in court.

Some locations in Winnipeg that were searched include Melrose Avenue East and Haverhill Crescent.

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