Police have seized an estimated $224,000 in drugs, $87,000 in cash and another $116,000 in guns and vehicles as part of seven month investigation into illegal drug activity involving outlaw motorcycle gangs.
A total of 11 people were arrested in connection with the seizure, which took place during a single day last week. Members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) searched 13 residences in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and the surrounding area, and have laid 73 charges as a result of their findings.
More than 100 officers from Prince Albert, Saskatoon and the RCMP took part in the investigation, which police are calling Project NORSE.
“I think it’s fair to say that we don’t encounter this type of seizure on a daily or monthly basis,” Prince Albert Police Service Insp. Craig Mushka said during a press conference on Wednesday. “There have been previous joint investigations where we experience significant seizures, but this isn’t something that occurs too often.”
Police seized six vehicles, three rifles and one shotgun as part of the operation, along with a cocaine press, 596 grams of cocaine, 9,279 grams of cannabis bud, 33 cannabis plants, and 2,142 grams of individually-packaged cannabis by-products. The latter includes butter, resin, hash and vape cigarettes, among other things.
Police estimate that’s enough cocaine for 1,200 “personal uses” and enough cannabis buds for roughly 36,000 joints. Suspects were growing the cannabis legally under a valid Health Canada medical license, and then selling it illegally on the black market.
RCMP Supt. Ted Munro said it’s still common to see illegal cannabis sales, even though the product is legal for consumption. He warned residents that consuming illegally purchased products creates significant health concerns.
“You’re putting your safety at risk any time you go outside the law and you try and purchase something illegal,” he said during the press conference. “We don’t know what it is or what’s in it and the results can be serious.”
Munro added that they don’t have enough data yet to know just how often these sales are happening, but he doesn’t expect them to end any time soon.
“Obviously any time there’s any kind of change to laws, etc. in regards to distribution and selling of a product that used to be illegal, there’s going to be that continuing black market effect to undermine it,” he told reporters. “(Project NORSE) is a reflection of the great work that police are doing to target those individuals.”
Police say three full patch members of the FreeWheelers outlaw motorcycle gang were involved in illegally trafficking “a significant amount” of cocaine and marijuana in Prince Albert and the surrounding area. The club’s Prince Albert chapter began operations in May 2019 and has connections to other FreeWheelers gangs in Lloydminster and Saskatoon. Police say there are also connections with the Hells Angels chapter in Saskatoon.
As the investigation expanded, police discovered others working with FreeWheelers members to illegally distribute drugs in Prince Albert, with one person selling the products online. Another suspect is alleged to have run a commercial business where he made “marijuana vapes and other professional looking cannabis products.”
“This is certainly one of our bigger investigations into outlaw motorcycle gangs and the results are significant,” Mushka said. “Although we’ve had some previous experience with them, I don’t think that we’ve seen anything of this magnitude.”
Brody Markowski, 25, and Alexander “Michael” Fietz, 28, face 12 charges each as a result of the investigation. Curtis Brown, 50, and Tyler Korte, 30, face nine charges each, while Danny Glover, 29, faces seven charges. Miranda Parenteau, 23, Warren Kreger, 38, Kaitlyn Schinold, 27, and Josh Herron, 19, Rhonda Brown, 57, and Destiny Gunville, 19, also face charges. None of the allegations have been proven in court.