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This article was published 12/12/2014 (2509 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Police say they are aiming high into the criminal world with their arrests of more than a dozen people as part of Project Distress.
RCMP Supt. Len DelPino said even though officers with the Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force raided and searched several residences on Wednesday, the drugs and weapons seized weren't the focus of the investigation.
"We were targeting high-level crime, not street-level," he said. "For example we were targeting the vice-presidents and presidents of the company and not the people working the stores.
"Our goal is to disrupt and dismantle organized crime in Manitoba... those into trafficking drugs destroy lives, homes and communities.
Winnipeg police Supt. Danny Smyth agreed, saying the goal of Project Distress wasn't so much seizing drugs but "catching and preventing organized crime from becoming established."
DelPino and Smyth said the investigation culminated on Wednesday with raids at five Winnipeg houses, one in the RM of MacDonald and one in B.C.
The police raid seized six kilograms of cocaine, eight kilograms of methamphetamine and small quantities of other drugs. The seizures included $70,000 in cash, three handguns and 17 long guns.
The Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force is made up of the Winnipeg Police Service, RCMP and Brandon Police Service investigators. The 15-month probe targeted high-level drug trafficking and organized crime activities in Manitoba, with connections to Ontario, Alberta and B.C.
RCMP and Winnipeg police spokesmen announced Thursday they arrested 12 people and are looking for two more as part of Project Distress.
Fourteen people are charged with a variety of offences associated with drug trafficking, proceeds of crime and weapons offences.
Among those is recent Transcona city council candidate Ray Paul Ulasy, 50, who was charged with two counts of firearms trafficking.
Ulasy lost to Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt in October.
Other people charged are Winnipeggers Jason Morris Ong, 28; Ryan Christopher Martinez, 24; Marlon Delim, 35; Michael Hidalgo, 32; Reighner Delacruz, 25; Kara Lynn Peralta, 22; and Darren Raymond Colomy, 40.
Also charged are Jared Romeo Devloo, 35, of the RM of MacDonald; Randy Baldovi, 31, of Port Coquitlam, B.C.; Michael Tuan Van Nguyen, 25, of Mississauga, Ont.; and Alexey Shuster, 27, of Edmonton.
Police are still looking for Sean Frederick Demchuk, 31, and Christopher Houston Gordon, 30, both of Winnipeg.
None of those charged has been convicted and are considered innocent.
Demchuk has been described in the past as a Hells Angels associate and member of the Zig Zag street gang that works for the Angels.
Police said the investigation included the court-ordered interception of 80,000 communications including phone calls and emails.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.