By Myles Dolphin
The RCMP seizure of weapons, drugs and cash during a March 16 raid that targeted several locations in the Yukon has a strong connection to Langley.
The bust is part of an ongoing effort to disrupt organized crime in Whitehorse, said Cpl. Calista MacLeod.
“We’re very aware of the harm that drugs and violence do to our communities,” she said during a news conference on Wednesday.
“This investigation was focused on disrupting the suppliers who bring drugs into our communities, not just catching it after it gets here.”
Reporters were invited to view the seized materials at the Whitehorse RCMP building on Wednesday afternoon.
Three rifles, four hand guns, a taser, a bullet-proof vest and several bags filled with ammunition covered a large table.
There were also bags filled with Canadian currency, although MacLeod did not confirm how much.
She did say the cocaine represented between 45 and 90 individual sales, if left uncut.
“But usually drugs are cut with all sorts of questionable things so it could potentially be much more than that,” she said.
Some of the items were clearly related to the 856 gang, including a pair of black T-shirts with the number emblazoned on the front.
The gang, originally from Langley, took its name from the prefix of phone numbers in Aldergrove. Senior members can be identified by the numbers tattooed to their inside lip.
In the past 10 years it has slowly expanded to other Canadian cities, including communities in northern British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
MacLeod said the gang has increased its visibility and its activities in Whitehorse in the past year.
“The drug trade in the North has connections to organized crime in southern Canada,” she said.
“These criminal organizations have not historically had much direct presence in our communities. In this operation, the 856 gang has had much more of a visible presence.”
When asked by a reporter if the gang had been involved in other crimes around the city involving drugs and guns, she said “they seem to go together.”
Police are still investigating a drive-by shooting in February that left a woman injured. Earlier in the month, police found a fully automatic AK-47, a sawed-off bolt-action shotgun, drugs and ammunition inside a Whitehorse-area storage locker.
MacLeod said the public’s help is needed to put in a dent in the gang’s activities.
“We need all Yukoners to help us bring the demand down,” she said.
Police have charged 12 people with drug trafficking and weapons offences.
Two men have made first appearances in territorial court: Bradley Prowal, 27, from Langley, and Lucas Radatzke, 30, from Trail.
Police are still searching for Gerrit Houben-Szabo, Stewart McCarthy and Augusto Duminuco while two others facing charges are currently in custody in British Columbia on unrelated matters.
Houben-Szabo, 27, was arrested at the Whitehorse airport on Feb. 9 after Whitehorse RCMP received an anonymous 911 call that a man in the arrivals area had a handgun tucked in his pants.
When Houben-Szabo was searched, police found 11 grams of cocaine and a knife in his pocket, but no gun.
He was scheduled to appear in territorial court on a charge of possession for the purposes of trafficking.
Yukon RCMP conducted three raids on March 16.
Two were vehicle stops, one off of the Alaska Highway at Trails North and the other on Mountain View Drive.
Police also executed a search warrant on a residence in an undisclosed part of Whitehorse.
Members of the Yukon RCMP Federal Investigations Unit, the Emergency Response Team and local investigators carried out the searches.
At the time, RCMP said the arrests were “the culmination of a police-wide effort to address a group of offenders in our community.”
Steven Bullers, 40, from Whitehorse was facing a single count of trafficking in cocaine.
Jeffrey Redick, 34, and Taylor Wallace, 23, from Whitehorse as well as Jason Morgan, 33, from Abbotsford, were facing multiple charges including possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a prohibited weapon and possessing a loaded restricted firearm.