Fifteen people suspected to be involved in cocaine trafficking in Yellowknife have been charged following a year-long investigation that netted over 1,400 grams of cocaine and firearms, say RCMP.
The investigation, dubbed Project Gloomiest, was launched after Mounties were alerted to “suspicious movements of money,” believed to be linked to drug trafficking in the territory. Police say they received information about the suspicious activity from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada’s financial intelligence agency.
The primary target of the probe, according to a news release issued Monday afternoon, was Toufic Chamas. Chamas, 23, faces numerous unrelated charges in connection with the theft of firearms from a city home in October. That same month, Chamas was convicted of operating a drone dangerously in the city – the first time the use of a drone has been criminalized in Canada.
Mounties say the investigation quickly expanded to include numerous other suspects allegedly “working in concert” with Chamas.
A “separate cocaine trafficking network,” was also investigated during the probe, states the release.
Two search warrants executed in the city on May 4, RCMP say, were part of the Project Gloomiest. Investigators witnessed the “unlawful transfer” of a firearm during surveillance, states the release.
“Parts of the dismantled firearm” were recovered during the May 4 searches, according to police.
Chamas and Clayton Christensen, 40, face gun charges in connection with that transaction, states the news release.
The following suspects have been charged:
Toufic Chamas (age 23 – Edmonton) trafficking cocaine (4 counts) / unlawful possession of a firearm
Andrew Rheaume (age 24 – Yellowknife) possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking
Clayton Christensen (age 40 – Yellowknife) unlawful transfer of a firearm
Abdifatah Maie (age 40 – Edmonton) trafficking cocaine (2 counts)
Toni Tobac (age 27 – Yellowknife) trafficking cocaine (2 counts)
Brandon Topilikon (age 26 – Yellowknife) trafficking cocaine
Caitlin Stewart (age 27 – Yellowknife) trafficking cocaine (3 counts)
Julie Carter (age 33 – Yellowknife) trafficking cocaine (3 counts)
Arrest warrants have been issued for:
Mohammed Ahmad (age 20 – Edmonton) trafficking cocaine (4 counts)
Abdikani Warsame (age 27 – Toronto) trafficking cocaine
Brett Lacey (age 29 – no fixed address) trafficking cocaine (3 counts)
Paul Mangiel (age 27 – Red Deer) trafficking (5 counts)
Rasid Abdula (age 23 – Edmonton) trafficking cocaine (3 counts)
Samatar Yousuf (age 22 – Ottawa) trafficking cocaine (2 counts)
Kerry Balsillie (age 30 – Yellowknife) trafficking cocaine
“This was a very challenging investigation, compounded by the fact that many of the people we encountered were from out of town, and operated under pseudonyms. Extensive efforts were made to confirm the identity of these people who came to Yellowknife to exploit our most vulnerable citizens,” stated Staff Sgt. Dean Riou of the Northwest Territories RCMP Federal Investigations Unit in the news release.
“In addition to trafficking cocaine, some of the individuals charged are alleged to have trafficked substitute substances that they represented as cocaine. While this is obviously profitable, it is a very dangerous activity that fuels violence associated to the drug trade, which puts both the trafficker and the general public at risk” added Riou.
The arrests in Project Gloomiest come nearly three years after Project Green Manalishi, another large-scale investigation into drug trafficking in Yellowknife and throughout the territory that resulted in the arrests of nearly 30 people. Of those convicted following the 2016 RCMP operation, one offender is still awaiting sentencing while another has a warrant out for his arrest.