It took 17 years, but Point Douglas residents were able to celebrate Tuesday after an alleged drug trafficker and her underlings were charged with running a crack cocaine ring that menaced the neighbourhood.
"We’ve been working on this a long time," said ex-resident Sel Burrows, who organizes a community watch group, Point Powerline, that kept an eye on suspicious or criminal activity.
"It’s just wonderful," he said.
Police arrested 26 people and laid more than 100 criminal charges against 14 of them as part of "Project Matriarch," which began last October. Investigators seized cocaine, crack cocaine, a loaded firearm and ammunition, jewelry, a 2016 BMW X5 and a skid steer.
Criminal forfeitures were filed for 10 properties in Point Douglas and at least nine bank accounts. Drugs and property seized are valued at more than $2.3 million.
One of those charged is the alleged leader of the crime ring, Sandra Guiboche, 57, who was the investigation’s target. Guiboche is the registered owner or co-owner of all 10 properties that were seized, and she was the owner of all the bank accounts.
Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said the properties were either production or distribution points for cocaine and crack cocaine.
"We were seeing approximately one to two kilograms of month of cocaine being processed and then turned into crack cocaine," said Carver. The crack cocaine was sold on the streets, he said.
Carver said police used surveillance and interviews to carry out a co-ordinated bust.
In a sworn affidavit, provincial property forfeiture officials allege Guiboche has been selling drugs in Point Douglas for 25 years and is known for selling crack cocaine that's coloured pink — a sort of branding for her product.
The document says Guiboche maintains the properties are rental units. Some tenants, however, are street-level drug dealers, the document says, alleging she used her position as landlord to exercise control over her network.
Police believe the accused's main property at 78 Talbot Ave. functioned as the centre of the operation, the document says.
It says the house was used to store and conceal money made from selling cocaine and to hide cocaine before it was moved to a house at 107 Lisgar Ave. At that location, cocaine would be cooked down and mixed with agents such as baking soda to produce crack cocaine, the document says.
The document details police surveillance at the Talbot house, which ended with the arrest of Timothy Verbong, 60. It's alleged he had a kilogram of cocaine, 14.4 grams of pink crack cocaine and $1,000 cash in his car, after he travelled from Talbot Avenue to a house on Higgins Avenue, where it’s alleged he bought the cocaine.
"People underestimate the damage that drug dealers do to a community," said Burrows. "People don’t understand that the drug dealer is actively looking to get more people hooked, so they have more customers. It’s a private business."
He said he’s heard of dealers offering neighbourhood kids methamphetamine for free, so they’ll become addicted.
Residents near Guiboche’s properties complained to Burrows they were intimidated and afraid, he said.
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