A North Vancouver man was among those rounded up in a region-wide drug bust targeting the provinceâ€™s fentanyl supply lines last month.
The case had been under investigation since the fall of 2014 when police agencies became aware of a spike in fatal drug overdoses related to fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller used to make counterfeit oxycodone.
Vancouver Police Department held a press conference Tuesday morning to show off a cache of drugs, money and weapons seized around the Lower Mainland in Project Tainted.
On Feb. 17, police agencies around the Lower Mainland carried out a series of raids, which has resulted in more than 100 charges being laid against eight people.
Lynn Valley resident Walter McCormick was among those arrested. Officers from North Vancouver RCMPâ€™s strike force arrested the 51-year-old man in Langley and seized some evidence from the back of his car before racing back to execute a search warrant on a home at 2681 Poplynn Dr., according to North Vancouver RCMP Insp. Randy Marquardt.
â€œThat was the search warrant we ended up getting a lot of this stuff from as well as a storage locker at 1775 Main St.,â€ Marquardt said. â€œThat storage locker was actually contaminated. We actually held it for two or three days to get our (clandestine lab) team in because it contained equipment for a (clandestine) lab – a pill machine and powders and we didnâ€™t know what some of that stuff was.â€
The RCMP has requested the help of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to help identify some of the powder and hundreds of thousands of pills seized in the raids. â€œOur labs here have no idea what it is. They change a molecule and it screws everything up,â€ Marquardt said.
Right now, McCormick is facing two charges of possession of drugs for the purposes of trafficking, though the investigation is ongoing and Marquardt said he expects more charges to be laid. McCormick is currently out on bail but is due in court for an arraignment on March 11.
Most of the 75 suspected fentanyl-related deaths in 2014 have happened in Vancouver near the Downtown Eastside but â€œitâ€™s just a matter of time,â€ before they occur on the North Shore given how fast the drug is proliferating, Marquardt said.
Many of those deaths were likely from drugs that had been laced with fentanyl without the users knowing, according to police.
Dealers are adding the drug to their product in order to make it more appealing in the black market, but it can be 50 to 100 times more lethal than morphine.
– Brent Richter is a reporter for the North Shore News.