Intercontinental investigation nets largest cocaine haul in OPP history

Cocaine from OPP Project HOPE

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has wrapped up an intercontinental investigation netting 1062 kilograms of pure cocaine, the largest single drug seizure in OPP history.

At a news conference at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia on Monday (Aug. 28), Commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes, Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum and representatives from the project’s partner agencies unveiled details of the investigation and the stack of the evidence seized. The wholesale value of this seizure is estimated to be worth $60 million while the eventual street value, once cut, is approximately $250 million.

“The OPP recognize that illegal drugs cause grievous harm and threaten community safety,” says OPP Commissioner Hawkes.

“With the amount of pure cocaine seized during Project HOPE, we’ve stopped many criminals from causing more harm to our communities while removing a quarter of a billion dollars from the criminal economy.”

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Project HOPE was conducted by the OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB) and Provincial Operations Intelligence Bureau (POIB) in partnership with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Peel Regional Police, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“FINTRAC is proud to have provided financial intelligence to assist in this investigation.  By working together, we create a hostile environment for those who seek to threaten Canadians or abuse our financial system,” says Gérald Cossette, Director of FINTRAC.

During the course of the investigation, three individuals responsible for importing enormous quantities of cocaine from Argentina were identified and linked to cocaine transported on ocean-going vessels in shipping containers to the Port of Montreal for distribution in Ontario. Over the course of several months, the OPP worked with CBSA to identify the containers and locations. Subsequent investigation identified links to various caches of cocaine at a CBSA warehouse, at the Port of Montreal and in Stoney Creek, Ontario.

Luis Enrique Karim-Altamirano, 52, of Vaughan was charged on May 1, 2017 with importation of a Controlled Substance Schedule 1 – Cocaine; possession of a Controlled Schedule 1 Substance – Cocaine for the Purpose of Trafficking; and Drive While Disqualified.

He remains in custody pending a bail hearing on August 30.

Mauricio Antonio Medina-Gatica, 36, of Brampton was charged on May 1, 2017 with importation of a Controlled Substance Schedule 1 – Cocaine; and, possession of a Controlled Substance Schedule 1 – Cocaine for the Purpose of Trafficking.

He has since been released on bail.

Iban Orozco-Lomeli, 45, of Toronto, was charged on July 10, 2017 with importation of a Controlled Substance Schedule 1 – Cocaine; and, possession of a Controlled Schedule 1 Substance – Cocaine for the Purpose of Trafficking.

He has since been released on bail.

The OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau (OCEB) is part of the OPP Investigations and Organized Crime Command, and is committed to the delivery of investigative excellence and community safety in support of front line OPP officers, the OPP’s policing partners and justice sector stakeholders in order to disrupt criminal activities and enhance public safety.