Police from across Ontario say they’ve smashed a criminal ring made up of “important figures” in outlaw biker gangs who peddled drugs and were active in human trafficking.
Project Skylark, the 14-month investigation involving police from Niagara, Hamilton, Sudbury and Ottawa, netted 15 people who have been charged with 195 offences connected to a drug network that investigators say sold cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The arrests include several full members of the Hells Angels and Red Devils gangs and a prospective member of the Hooligans, a group Sudbury police describe as a “puppet club” for the Hells Angels.
“Having disabled and disrupted this particular network will have a significant impact on the drug trade in Ontario,” said OPP Supt. Bryan MacKillop during a news conference in Niagara Falls on Wednesday.
“The results of this investigation will remove the Hells Angels from the greater Sudbury area,” he added.
The project culminated with a series of raids last week as eight tactical teams and more than 200 officers across Ontario executed 18 search warrants.
People from Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and the Sudbury and Ottawa areas are among those arrested. Some face dozens of charges including drug trafficking, commission of an offence for an organized crime group, extortion and human trafficking.
“These individuals don’t care about your safety or the safety of your family, friends or neighbours,” said MacKillop. “They care about making money at the expense of others.”
Guns are “tools of the trade” for bikers who are “in the business of threatening people and extorting money,” said MacKillop, adding eight of the firearms police seized were illegally owned.
Police say they seized:
- 12.5 kg of cocaine.
- 12.2 kg of cannabis.
- Hundreds of fentanyl patches.
- 2,000 methamphetamine tablets.
- 11 firearms.
- 700 rounds of ammunition.
- $75,000 in cash.
- $30,000 in jewlery.
Investigators also confiscated three motorcycles, a Maserati, a Mercedes and a home in the Ottawa area.
‘Everyone should be furious’
MacKillop declined to go into detail about the human trafficking charges or the number of victims as the cases are before the courts.
He called human trafficking a “plague” and said involvement in it shows how outlaw gangs see people as just another commodity.
“They exploit people simply to make money,” he explained. “Everyone should be furious that this is happening in Canada in 2019. They should be furious this is happening in our province. They should be furious this is happening right under people’s noses and they don’t know it’s happening.”
Supt. Ryan Diodati, head of the investigative services unit for Hamilton police said one of its officers is dedicated to the provincial biker enforcement team and has been working on Project Skylark from the beginning.
Hamilton police helped arrest one of the men caught up by the investigation and seized six guns.
The city has a long history with outlaw biker gangs, according to Diodati, and while they may not have a physical clubhouse in Hamilton, they continue to traffic guns, weapons and people in the area.
“Project Skylark will have an immediate impact, right down to street-level or drugs,” he said. “But we cannot and we will not stop sharing information … and continue to gather the intelligence to disrupt and dismantle these outlaw motorcycle gangs.”