Police have arrested 26 people they believe were involved in a drug trafficking organization operated in the Point Douglas area of Winnipeg.
The arrests are the result of an investigation dubbed Project Matriarch that began in October 2020 to gather evidence on Sandra Guiboche, who police believe was involved in the production and trafficking of crack cocaine in the Winnipeg neighbourhood, says a news release sent Tuesday morning.
Altogether, 14 of the people arrested face more than 100 criminal charges, including drug trafficking, possession of proceeds of crime, conspiracy and money laundering offences.
Guiboche is charged with drug trafficking, drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime, laundering proceeds of crime and conspiracy.
Investigators believe Guiboche was at the top or near the top of the organization and that she was critical in the day-to-day operations of the group, Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said at a Tuesday news conference.
Giuboche is well known to Winnipeg police, having been arrested many times, Carver said.
“Her criminal history goes back many years,” he said.
Police said they also seized jewelry, a 2016 BMW X5 and a Skid Steer, in addition to various quantities of cocaine and crack cocaine.
Police have also seized or are in the process of seizing 10 residential properties and bank accounts related to the investigation.
The total value of seized property and evidence is $2,343,497, the police news release said.
The properties in Point Douglas, an inner-city neighbourhood in a bend of the Red River, were owned by those within the drug trafficking network and used to either produce or distribute drugs, Carver said.
“And you can imagine from a community standpoint how … I was going to say frustrating, but really terrifying it must be that in a relatively small, tight-knit community, that there are houses within your community, on your street, that are the source of drugs,” he said.
The investigation was launched in part because Point Douglas residents raised concerns about drug activity in their neighbourhood, Carver said.
Community activist applauds arrests
Sel Burrows, a longtime community activist in the Point Douglas area, said people in the neighbourhood have been aware of the drug network’s activities for years and are extremely happy to see the arrests.
“Everybody is fantastically excited,” he said.
“This is the one big negative thing in our community, as a very active, positive community, that we haven’t been able to take care of.”
While arresting drug dealers might not solve the issue of drug addiction or undo the harm it creates in the community, it is one piece of the puzzle, he said.
“It’s going to have a series of impacts. For one: wherever there’s drug dealers, there’s more petty crime, more garages broken into and stuff like that, and there’s more pressure on people to become addicts,” he said.
“People forget the drug dealers are retailers; they are looking for more customers all the time.”
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