Thirteen people alleged by police to be “high-level” drug dealers were charged Friday in connection with the latest largescale sweep orchestrated by Manitoba’s organized crime unit.
Project Deplete, a police investigation that began last August and culminated Friday with arrests in Winnipeg and Edmonton, is the latest effort of Manitoba’s Integrated Organized Crime Task Force, a joint RCMP-Winnipeg police unit that has famously used informants over the past several years to take down primarily the Hells Angels and their associates, with great success.
The latest sweep saw charges laid against people police accuse of being major players in the city’s drug trade. Some of the accused have gang associations, others are more “independent,” police said.
“We’re alleging these are some major traffickers here. We targeted them specifically because we believe they’re at a high level,” said Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill.
Among those arrested Friday was 36-year-old Billy Bowden, a former member of the Manitoba Hells Angels. The ex biker gang member has a long criminal record, including a manslaughter conviction for the 2007 stabbing death of Jeff Engen, who was killed at the old Empire Cabaret.
Also arrested Friday was Joshua James Lyons, 29, who was picked up in the organized crime unit’s first major sweep in 2006 and subsequently sentenced to four years in prison.
Chi Hong Do, 30; Christopher Lea Murrell, 36; Pardeep Kapoor, 33; and Joshua Robert Charney, 21, were all arrested in Winnipeg Friday, while 32-year-old Ramsey Yaggey was arrested in Edmonton. As of Friday afternoon, police were still looking for six other people charged in the sweep: Dalton Miller, 21; Kareem Martin, 31; Elmer John Deato, 26; Dane Sawatzky, 27; Mark Beitz, 31; and David Thomas, 29, all of Winnipeg.
“There could very well be more arrests on top of that,” McCaskill said.
Police would not say how many properties were raided as part of the blitz Friday as officers were still working to track down the remaining suspects, nor would they say whether they used an informant this time around.
Nearly seven kilograms of cocaine, almost half a kilo of crack, more than 9,800 ecstasy tablets, a kilo of MDMA and large quantities of methamphetamine, oxycodone and marijuana were all seized during the investigation.
Police estimate the total street value of the drugs at about $1 million.