Yukon RCMP have charged five Whitehorse individuals and seized $450,000 in cash along with drugs, prohibited weapons and stolen goods after acting Nov. 4 on search warrants obtained during a three-year-long investigation.
Project MUSKRAT has been ongoing since December 2017. The investigation initially targeted a group of people suspected of drug trafficking.
The Canada Revenue Agency was brought in August 2019 to pursue a parallel investigation into tax offences. The RCMP believes the individuals were involved in local money laundering connected to a Whitehorse business.
The execution of the search warrants on Nov. 4 resulted in five Whitehorse residents being arrested and charged, and businesses being searched.
Police also seized drugs, prohibited weapons, stolen property, evidence and $450,000 in cash.
RCMP said they are still testing substances found during the seizures, and more charges and arrests could be pending. Police suspect most of the drugs seized were cocaine, but are also analyzing for methamphetamines and fentanyl.
“The investigation into these individuals and some associated businesses revealed that the serious crimes taking place were having not just an impact on regular citizens of Yukon, but as well, other businesses and the local economy,” said Chief Superintendent Scott Sheppard of the Yukon RCMP.
“You’ll note that there were a lot of different targets involved in this file but we’ve only charged five individuals right now near the top of the file. The impact of drugs in the community is far-reaching,” said Sheppard.
In total, six searches took place on Nov. 4 in downtown Whitehorse, Whistle Bend, Riverdale and Cowley Creek. Suspected cocaine, methamphetamine and cash were found after a search of a Main Street business.
Four residential homes were also raided, along with a storage locker.
A home on Coho Trail resulted in seizure of suspected cocaine, cash, a loaded handgun, stolen property and various vehicles. On Ketza Road suspected cocaine was seized along with drug paraphernalia and cash.
A prohibited high-capacity magazine and cash were seized at a home on Chakawana Lane and search of a residence on Aksala Drive yielded more suspected cocaine and cash. A search of the storage locker led to the seizure of a prohibited high-capacity magazine and a conducted energy weapon.
Levy Blanchard, 39, and Celia Wright, 29, were both arrested and appeared in court on Nov. 5 facing charges for firearms offences, possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime.
Sylvio Lin, 32, was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime in addition to money laundering.
Johnny Mak, 33, was charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of property obtained by crime.
Finally, Melody Grini-Blanchard, 29, was arrested and charged with possession of property obtained by crime, two counts of possession of a prohibited device and possession of a prohibited weapon.
All five individuals were charged and released on conditions and are set to appear back in court over the next two months.
“It takes a lot of time and energy to put these types of files together,” said Sheppard, adding that the goal to impact drug trafficking is both a local and national priority for the force.
Sheppard said in a closed market, such as the Yukon, it can be “quite lucrative” to sell drugs.
“The truth of the matter is, I realized long ago that when it comes to the drug problem, the opioid problem, and various other types of street-level drug activity, we’re not going to arrest our way out of this, but this is part of a solution,” he said. “I believe this is going to have a significant impact.”
None of the charges have been proven in court.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org