Ontario Provincial Police say they have busted an organized crime group that was manufacturing illegal handguns and selling them to street gangs in the Greater Toronto Area, Niagara Region and elsewhere.
“This is a GTA-centred group,” Supt. Bryan MacKillop of the OPP organized crime enforcement bureau said in an interview Tuesday.
“They were involved with street gangs,” MacKillop said.
The eight-month operation, dubbed Project Renner, targeted a multi-ethnic organized crime group that had been producing restricted and untraceable firearms by using unregulated parts. The group doesn’t have a name but are considered an organized crime group because of their ongoing criminal activity, police said.
“Trafficking in illegal firearms and firearms-related violence continue to threaten public safety in communities across Ontario,” OPP Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum said in a prepared statement.
“By taking down a criminal operation of this magnitude, we’ve prevented illegal guns from killing more even people in communities throughout the Greater Toronto and Golden Horseshoe areas,” Barnum said.
The investigation culminated with 39 co-ordinated raids last week involving more than 400 officers from multiple police forces, police said.
Police said they’ve seized 14 handguns, six long guns including a machine-gun and an assault rifle, grenades, silencers, a stun gun and body armour. The guns were manufactured in Ontario using existing parts and then sold to southern Ontario criminals, police said.
“These are all completely illegal firearms,” MacKillop said.
The guns were sold for an average of $2,500 each to various criminal groups throughout the province, including several in the GTA and Golden Horseshoe region, including Hamilton, police said.
“These are not mass-produced firearms,” MacKillop said.
“We were actually able to trace the untraceable firearms back to the manufacturer,” he said.
Unlike legal firearms, these guns had no serial numbers.
The OPP said officers also seized 1.2 kilograms of cocaine, 30 grams of methamphetamine, 13 grams of heroin, 66 fentanyl tablets and $85,000 in cash during the raids.
Police said 23 people have been charged in connection with the gun manufacturing and distribution racket.
Police said the ringleaders were Bruce McKinnon, 47, of Rockwood near Guelph, Ont. and Jon Rasmussen, 29, of Smithville, between Hamilton and Niagara Falls.
McKinnon and Rasmussen are alleged to have manufactured and trafficked more than 120 handguns, police said.
McKinnon is charged offences including five counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and eight counts of trafficking firearms.
Rasmussen faces charges including 16 counts of trafficking firearms and five counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
MacKillop declined to comment on the investigative techniques and if undercover officers were involved.