A suspected drug-smuggling ring allegedly used tractor-trailers with secret compartments to truck millions of dollars of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from Mexico and California to Canada before authorities took it down, police said Tuesday.
Police seized $50 million worth of drugs and arrested 20 people after a six-month investigation dubbed Project Brisa led by the Toronto Police Service. Five tractor-trailers also were seized as part of the case, which involved multiple Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations.
“The quantities of illegal street drugs seized in the operation are frankly staggering,” Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said during a news conference Tuesday.
The traffickers reportedly evaded detection at borders by installing hidden compartments with hydraulically powered traps in trucks that were capable of hiding about 220 pounds of drugs. The suspect accused of performing the installations, Jason Hall, 43, of Surrey, British Columbia, was nicknamed “The Trap Maker,” police said.
“They were sophisticated to the point where [the] X-ray was not able to penetrate those traps,” David Glos, director of the Canada Border Services Agency’s Intelligence and Enforcement Operations Division for the Toronto region, said during a news conference.
The drug runs allegedly took place from November 2020 until May and utilized U.S.-Canada border crossings in Ontario. The drugs ultimately were destined for Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and its vicinity.
The drug seizure set a record for the Toronto Police Service. But authorities in Canada and the U.S. have reported an uptick in large-scale drug trafficking involving commercial trucks since the border shut down for nonessential travel in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was not immediately clear how many drivers were arrested as part of the investigation and whether they were working for any trucking companies. Two suspects remain at large, police said.