Thunder Bay Police Service handout
A suspect in a massive drug bust exits a Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service.
Police say an inmate serving time at the Thunder Bay District Jail operated a multimillion-dollar drug organization from his prison cell.
Multiple police forces, including the Thunder Bay Police Service, OPP and Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, released the results of a six-month long drug investigation that led to a recent bust at a media conference on Wednesday.
Dubbed Project Harrington, the operation looked at the drug trafficking of Oxycodone and cocaine to various remote First Nation communities and led to the seizure of more than $1.3 million worth of drugs.
An inmate serving time at the district jail operated the massive drug operation, police revealed Wednesday.
OPP Chief Superintendent Mike Armstrong said the man saw his time in jail as an opportunity to network with other criminals, but called the situation an anomaly that has been corrected.
“This has happened on occasion,” Armstrong said during the news conference. “We became aware of it and it has become a part of our investigation.
“There’s a lot of connections made in custody. Sometimes for some criminals this is an opportunity because they make a lot of contacts from a lot of different areas.”
Police laid charges against 11 people, four of whom are still at large. One of the accused was an employee at the district jail and faces a charge of breach of trust.
The accused include:
• Rashad Waquad, 71, from Mississauga
• Zahed Khan, 20, from Toronto
• Jabir Kahn, 39, who is serving time at the Thunder Bay District Jail
• Brandie Mosher, 35, from Toronto
• Justin Cain, 25, from Toronto remains at large
• Jolene Shimkoff, 33, from Thunder Bay
• Preston Thompson, 23, from Thunder Bay remains at large
• Neil Thompson, 30, from Thunder Bay remains at large
• Justin Morrison, 28, from Weagamow Lake First Nation remains at large
• Dan Schiebler, 32, from Thunder Bay
• Candice Storozuk, 29, from Thunder Bay
Armstrong said the gang members used supplies already in the market and simply provided drugs to a market seen as more lucrative than southern Ontario.
He added that the selling of Oxycodone has dropped, but was not able to provide any numbers.
The gang started selling and distributing drugs about two years ago and used various modes of transportation in order to provide the illegal substances to the remote First Nation communities.
Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service Chief Claude Chum said the gang members used both airplanes and the seasonal winter roads to distribute the drugs into the communities. With about eight gangs still operating in the drug trade, Chum described the recent bust as the “tip of the iceberg.”
“We police two-thirds of Ontario, which is a very big area, we have 49 First Nations in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation territory and I police 35 of them,” Chum said.
“This is only part of the drug trade. There’s still a lot going on and continual enforcement is needed. Oxycodone is a big problem and as the supplies start to dry up and because of the situation they live in, they face more social problems.”
He added that it’s also important to watch out for a drug that may eventually replace Oxycodone when those supplies run out.
City police Chief J.P. Levesque said Thunder Bay is acting as the central hub for criminals operating in Toronto who want to sell drugs to remote First Nation communities.
“Oxycodone is coming up here because it is so lucrative,” Levesque said.
“They are getting $600 a tablet in the Northern communities. As the major centre in Northwestern Ontario it is only natural that organized crime groups kind of migrate toward us to set up shop.
“The majority is from southern Ontario and as Chief Armstrong mentioned one man who is incarcerated was able to run this. We’re going to continue to be vigilant.”
Two of the accused have already appeared in court with the others who are in custody expected to have their first appearance soon.