ALERT UPDATE: Ten suspects arrested, 139 charges laid in relation to one of Canada’s largest fentanyl seizures

Edmonton, Alberta – Ten suspects have been arrested and 139 charges laid in relation to one of Canada’s largest fentanyl seizures, which included the dismantling of a Calgary area fentanyl superlab.

ALERT Edmonton’s organized crime and gang team have concluded Project Essence almost one year since the Calgary area fentanyl superlab was dismantled in July 2021. Details of Project Essence were shared at a September 2021 news conference by ALERT, which reported seizing more than 31 kilograms of fentanyl and its precursors and 7,600 kilograms of chemicals used in fentanyl production, with an estimated street value in excess of $300 million.

The arrests were made at the beginning of June 2022 after investigators completed the required reports and disclosure for Crown Counsel. Further, Health Canada laboratory expert analysis on the substances seized was also completed.

One of the substances seized, initially reported as 10.5 kilograms of a synthetic opioid, was analyzed by Health Canada’s Drug Analysis Service and identified as isotonitazene. Isotonitazene, an illicit drug regulated under Schedule I of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is a synthetic opioid that is believed to be more potent than fentanyl. To date, the quantity of isotonitazene seized as a result of ALERT’s investigation is the largest reported seizure of isotonitazene in North America.

ALERT fentanyl seizure
ALERT fentanyl seizure (ALERT)

The suspects are charged with a variety of offence, ranging from fentanyl production to criminal conspiracy:

Jesse Deranger, 28-year-old man from Edmonton;

Juan Galan, 55-year-old man from Okotoks;

Gregory Hebb, 45-year-old man from Okotoks;

Dakota Hogg, 27-year-old man from Edmonton;

Christopher Loyie, 33-year-old man from Edmonton;

Jonathon Loyie, 35-year-old man from Edmonton;

Chad Loyie, 33-year-old man from Edmonton;

Sierra Meuller, 19-year-old woman from Edmonton;

Ryan Simpson, 41-year-old man from Okotoks;

Graham Thomas, 32-year-old man from Edmonton.

A full charge sheet can be found here (PDF)

Project Essence covered all aspects of fentanyl production; from importation, to accumulation and stockpiling of equipment and raw chemicals, to production, and eventual distribution. The investigation began in February 2021.

Chemical disposal and containment costs associated to the lab were approximately $75,000.

During the investigation, ALERT relied on the expertise and assistance of a number of specialized agencies, including Edmonton Police, Calgary Police, RCMP, Health Canada, Alberta Health Services, CBSA, Okotoks Fire Department, Foothill County Fire Department, British Columbia Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, and Alberta Environment.

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.

ALERT

BACKGROUND

September 1, 2021

Edmonton, Alberta – ALERT has prevented possibly hundred of millions of fentanyl doses from hitting the streets after a superlab has been dismantled. More than 31 kilograms of fentanyl and precursors were seized, along with 7,600 kilograms of chemicals used in fentanyl production.

ALERT executed 13 search warrants on July 7, 2021 as part of Project Essence. The search locations included homes and businesses in the Edmonton and Calgary areas, and a suspected fentanyl superlab located at a rural location near Aldersyde, Alta.

“We appreciate the vital work ALERT does to keep our communities safe and improve the lives of Albertans. Through Project Essence, ALERT disrupted organized crime endeavours and prevented hundreds of millions of fentanyl doses from potentially entering our communities, and destroying the lives and futures of many Albertans,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

Project Essence covered all aspects of fentanyl production; from importation, to accumulation and stockpiling of equipment and raw chemicals, to production, and eventual distribution.

The totality of fentanyl and chemical precursors seized had the capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses, according to ALERT and Health Canada estimates. ALERT believes the superlab was capable of producing as much as 10 kilograms of fentanyl every week.

One kilogram of pure fentanyl is equal to one million doses, and a lethal dose is considered to be 2 milligrams. If sold on the street, the value of the drugs seized is over $300 million, and includes:

13.6 kilograms of fentanyl;

11.9 kilograms of the fentanyl late-stage precursors 4-ANPP;

6.6 kilograms of synthetic opioids;

9.9 kilograms of methamphetamine;

50 litres of gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid;

3.5 kilograms of buffing agents; and

7,600 kilograms of chemicals.

ALERT is awaiting a complete Health Canada laboratory analysis of the fentanyl and chemicals seized. However, preliminary testing shows that amongst substances located was the fentanyl late-stage precursor 4-ANPP and the synthetic opioid isotonitazene, which reportedly has a much higher potency than fentanyl.

ALERT further seized 18 handguns, one rifle, $25,000 in cash and jewelry, six vehicles, four motorcycles, three trailers, and a boat. The assets were seized as proceeds of crime.

A number of suspects have been identified and charges are pending.

Project Essence began in February 2021 when ALERT received information of attempts to import a 563-kilogram shipment of a chemical used in fentanyl production.

During the investigation, ALERT relied on the expertise and assistance of a number of specialized agencies, including Edmonton Police, Calgary Police, RCMP, Health Canada, Alberta Health Services, CBSA, Okotoks Fire Department, Foothill County Fire Department, British Columbia Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, and Alberta Environment.

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.

ALERT

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