A major drug bust in Hay River resulting in the arrests of 11 people, and charges against nine of them last week may be connected to a slo-pitch softball tournament that took place around the same time.
Between Aug. 4 and 7, the Hay River RCMP and the force’s ‘G’ Division Federal Investigations Unit conducted a drug enforcement called “Operation Grand Slam.”
The operation culminated with the arrests and five residential search warrants being executed on Aug. 7.
Cocaine, morphine, GHB (a psychoactive drug), codeine, cash and a prohibited weapon (a butterfly knife) were seized.
The raids and resulting arrests took place the same weekend as the Coors’ mixed slo-pitch tournament, which featured teams from across the territory,
Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Hay River Hub was told some of the players in the tournament were in fact undercover RCMP officers who had come to town to take part in the raids. It wasn’t known at press time which team or teams the officers may have been playing on.
When asked about it, RCMP Sgt. Dean Riou of the Federal Investigations Unit, refused to confirm any connection between the tournament and the drug busts, stating, “I cannot discuss any techniques used in this investigation.”
He did state the operation was planned for the same weekend as the tournament, “which typically sees an influx of people to the community.”
“So the name ‘Grand Slam’ seemed appropriate,” Riou wrote in an e-mail.
Riou noted that, while the operation was short in duration, it was significant.
“A lot of planning was involved and considerable resources were deployed to the community to assist,” he stated, although he declined to detail what resources were involved.
He stated the weights of the drugs and the amount of cash seized were still being processed as of Aug. 11.
“It is not considered a significant amount of drugs or cash seized but the investigation did show strong evidence of cocaine trafficking,” he stated.
Asked if the operation targeted a drug-trafficking organization, Riou responded, “I would describe it more as a street sweep, targeting several smaller networks.”
The officer suspects the arrests may only result in a temporary decrease in the availability of illegal drugs in the community.
“Hay River is a wonderful community, however, unfortunately, there is a large market for cocaine there,” Riou wrote.
“Wherever such a market exists, there will be someone selfish enough to be willing to risk their freedom and the well-being of others to fill that demand.”
According to an RCMP news release on Aug. 11, the following nine people have been charged:
Matthew Poitras, 35, of Hay River – two counts of trafficking cocaine, and one count of failing to comply with probation;
Starr Martel, 24, of Hay River – one count of trafficking cocaine, and one count of possession of marijuana;
Clayton Waniandy, 30, of High Level, Alta. – three counts of trafficking cocaine;
Cory Beaulieu, 20, of Hay River – one count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, one count of possession of GHB for the purpose of trafficking, one count of possession of codeine for the purpose of trafficking, one count of possession of marijuana, one count of possession of proceeds of crime, and one count of possession of a prohibited weapon;
Isaiah Durham, 19, of High Level, Alta. – two counts of trafficking cocaine, and one count of possession of proceeds of crime;
Luke Daigneault, 20, of Hay River – two counts of trafficking cocaine;
Fred Lafferty, 42, of Hay River – two counts of trafficking cocaine, one count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, and one count of possession of the proceeds of crime;
Lyndon Antoine, 25, of Hay River – two counts of trafficking cocaine;
Bradley McArthur, 37, of Hay River – one count of trafficking cocaine.
Poitras and Waniandy remained in custody as of Aug. 11, while the remaining accused persons were released before a Justice of the Peace.
A 35-year-old male and 27-year-old female, both from Hay River, were released on a promise to appear pending charges of possession of cocaine and possession of morphine.
The charges had not been sworn as of Aug. 11.
Police will also seek a warrant for the arrest of one other individual.
Riou was asked about a rumour that a dog had been shot by a police officer during the operation.
“No dog was injured or killed,” he said. “One of the persons arrested had a dog with him at the time of his arrest. We kept the dog safe … and members of the Hay River Detachment were seen around town taking the dog for walks.”