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'This is not a small operation': Brandon police bust alleged family cocaine trafficking network


Brandon police have made one of the largest cocaine busts in its history, taking down an alleged family drug-trafficking network that brought in kilograms of cocaine into the city.

The bust comes after more than a year-long investigation dubbed Project Banish, leading police to seize $900,000 worth of cocaine that would have otherwise ended up on the street.

"This is a significant seizure, absolutely. One of the largest, if not the largest, street cocaine seizure that we've had," said Brandon Police Service Deputy Chief Randy Lewis.

The project began in September 2021, and just wrapped up early last week.

Throughout the course of the investigation, police learned of a 'sophisticated' network of local drug traffickers bringing kilograms of cocaine into Brandon mainly from Ontario and British Columbia.

Sgt. Paul McBeth, with the Brandon Police Service's organized crime section, said the trafficking network was an independent and local organization working largely within Brandon.

He said investigators used wiretaps in the investigation, intercepting communications of the drug trafficking network. Police allege the leader of the network worked with family and friends to distribute the drugs throughout the city.

"Organized crime section members also established and confirmed that (the leader) distributed cocaine to his various sub-dealers, and learned that his network included all of his immediate family members," McBeth said.

During the investigation, police seized more than nine kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $900,000. Along with this, police seized more than $450,000 in cash, two stolen handguns, a rifle, a ballistic vest and other prohibited weapons.

During Project Banish, the Brandon Police Service seized two stolen handguns, a rifle, a ballistic vest and other prohibited weapons. (Source: Brandon Police Service)

Multiple vehicles, which include a 2011 Lincoln MKS, a 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle and a 2003 Victory motorcycle, were also seized.

Police have arrested 10 people so far, laying 33 criminal charges against them. Logan Bickerton, 27, is among the suspects facing multiple drug-trafficking charges.

The charges against him haven't been proven in court.

McBeth said more arrests and charges are anticipated in the near future.

"This complex investigation demonstrates the ability of the Brandon Police Service organized crime section to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to detect, disrupt and dismantle sophisticated drug trafficking operations," McBeth said.

He added investigators worked with multiple agencies, including Winnipeg police, throughout Project Banish, and received funding through the Manitoba Criminal Intelligence Centre.

CTV News has reached out to the province to find out how much funding was provided for this project.

Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Project Banish highlights the importance of police agencies working together.

"This is an example. We know that drug dealers, while this was operating in Brandon, we do know that generally there is not borders and boundaries that are operated within," Goertzen said.

He said people can sometimes mistake the big impact independent networks, like the one busted in Brandon, can have.

"This is not a small operation. It might not be an organized entity; it might not be involved with other sorts of organizations nationally or internationally, but this is no small amount of drugs and no small amount of cash that would have impacted no small amount of people's lives."

As for Project Banish, McBeth confirmed there is a concern the takedown of this network could create a void in the community that another network will try to fill.

"I'm sure there will be another group looking to fill that role and we will do our best to discover who they are and take them down as well," he said. Top Stories

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