A Blind River man who was one of 15 people arrested following a province-wide investigation into a drug trafficking network involving outlaw motorcycle gangs has pleaded guilty to a cocaine charge laid several months earlier.
Darren Gerrard, 52, pleaded guilty Wednesday in the Ontario Court of Justice in Sudbury to cocaine possession. That charge was laid in Blind River back on March 3, 2019.
The court heard Gerrard was driving when he was stopped as part of a traffic safety initiative. Officers determined there was an outstanding warrant out for Gerrard. One gram of cocaine with an estimated street value of $100 was also found.
Justice John Keast, acknowledging that Gerrard has been in custody for some time on much-more significant charges, accepted a joint sentencing submission by the Crown and defence lawyer Alex Toffoli of one-day jail that took into account 10 days of pre-trial custody.
“This is only a small part of the bigger picture,” commented Keast. “The bigger picture will be dealt with at a more appropriate time.”
Toffoli told the court that Gerrard’s resolving of the old drug charge and dealing with another old matter last Friday leave him with just the significant new charges laid in August.
In early August of 2019, Project Skylark investigated members and associates of the Hells Angels Nomads, Red Devils Motorcycle Club and the Hooligans Motorcycle Club associated with the trafficking of cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl in the Niagara Region, Sudbury and Ottawa.
“The results of this investigation have significantly impacted the Hells Angels Nomads and Red Devils MC drug trafficking network,” OPP Superintendent Bryan MacKillop said at the time. “We want to send a clear message that law enforcement agencies are working together to hold (outlaw motorcycle gangs) accountable for trafficking and distributing these drugs that are taking the lives of people in our communities.
“This investigation will be ongoing, and anyone linked to these criminal enterprises could be subject to further investigation.”
MacKillop said it was important for police to disrupt the drug trade in Ontario.
“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are associated to other forms of organized crime across this country,” he told reporters at the news conference in Niagara Falls.
“It’s the network they utilize to be able to peddle their goods that’s so important, and having disabled and disrupted this particular network will have a significant impact on the drug trade in Ontario.”
The 14-month investigation was carried out by the Ontario Provincial Police Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, the Niagara Regional Police Service, Greater Sudbury Police Service, Ottawa Police Service, and Hamilton Police Service.
About 6 a.m. Aug. 1, search warrants were executed across the province, including five at locations in Greater Sudbury.
Police in Greater Sudbury seized about $420,000 of drugs, including methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, and shatter. Five handguns, three long guns, and $50,000 in cash were also seized.
Seven people were arrested and charged in Sudbury as a result of the searches.
Among those arrested were Greater Sudbury residents Jacob Aubrey, 33, Gaetan Carriere, 32, Shannon Marynuk, 32, David Nan, 21, and Aaron “Joseph” Piccinetti, 41.
Keith Earle, 31, of Niagara Falls and Brandon Tuplin, 33, of Orleans were also arrested in Sudbury.
Greater Sudbury resident Dominik Viau, 22, was also arrested on Aug. 1, though it was not specified where.
As for Gerrard, he was charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, fail to comply with recognizance, failure to comply with conditional sentence order, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a controlled substance, possession of an unauthorized weapon, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a firearm contrary to a prohibition order, and improper storage of a firearm.
Gerrard is accused of being associated with Piccinetti, of Sudbury. Piccinetti faces eight charges including three counts of trafficking in a controlled substance.
The accused face a host of charges, including drug trafficking, possession of unauthorized firearms and ammunition, and possession for the purpose of trafficking, as well as several counts of human trafficking.
Across the province, the investigative team seized 12.5 kg of cocaine, 12.2 kg of cannabis, 1,400 packages of cannabis edible, fentanyl patches, and 2,000 methamphetamine tablets. They also seized $30,000 in jewelry, 11 firearms, 700 rounds of ammunition, $75,000 in cash, multiple vehicles including three motorcycles, and one residence.
Fifteen individuals were arrested in total in the Niagara Region, Sudbury, Ottawa, and the Town of Blind River. They face a total of 195 charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, and the Cannabis Act.