Published April 11, 2023

Four from Barrie charged as police seize 173 guns, arrest 42, in cross-border trafficking investigation

A 17-year-old faces charges among the four

A year-long, cross-border firearms trafficking investigation led to the arrests of 42 people, including four from Barrie, and the seizure of 173 guns in Canada and the U.S, Toronto police said on Tuesday.  

A total of 422 criminal charges were filed as a result of the probe, called Project Moneypenny, police told a press conference. 

Among the accused are Canadians who allegedly sold guns acquired in the United States to undercover officers in Toronto. 

Many of the guns were legally purchased in the U.S. states of Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Texas, police said.  

The weapons haul includes 86 guns confiscated in the Greater Toronto Area, mostly semi-automatic pistols, and another 87 handguns seized by U.S. law enforcement in Chicago from a vehicle destined for Canada, police told reporters.  

Of the 42 Canadians arrested, over half were from Toronto.

The four from Barrie include:

A 19-year-old man, charged with:

  • Failure to comply with order
  • Two counts of possession of firearm while prohibited
  • Three counts of transfer prohibited firearm while knowingly not being authorized

A 27-year-old man:

  • Possession of property or proceeds obtained by crime
  • Possession of a schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking
  • Possession of a substance included in schedule I

A 34-year-old woman:

  • Two counts of possession of a substance included in schedule I

And a 17-year-old:

  • Failure to comply with order
  • Possession of a weapon
  • Possession of firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized
  • Possession of firearm while prohibited
  • Possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition
  • Possession of a schedule I substance for the purpose of trafficking

Others were from Pickering, Ont., Whitby, Ont. and Winnipeg. Seven of the suspects were 18 years old or younger, police said.  

The investigation was launched by the Toronto Police Services Gun and Gang Task Force in March 2022. 

It was later expanded to involve the Canada Border Services Agency, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as Canada's Durham Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police. 

"You can have significant legislation... (but) the way we combat this is through true collaboration with our partners in the ATF (US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and all the states, specifically Arizona, " said Toronto police Supt. Steve Watts. 

"That's the way you actually deter the flow across. It's not through written legislation."  

The investigation also resulted in the seizure of over 1,400 rounds of ammunition, 45 over capacity magazines (magazines with more than 10 rounds), 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl and 1.8 kilograms of cocaine.

"Gun related violence poses great implications for public safety and cannot be tolerated," said Ontario Provincial Police Chief Supt. Paul Mackey. 

"We are grateful for all of the partners who came together to send a clear message to those choosing to endanger our citizens: We do not tolerate gun violence in this province." 

The suspects were have been charged in a Toronto court and their next appearance is scheduled for Friday. 

- With files from Barrie 360

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2023.

Banner image: CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

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