For the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador, police have found a commercial-grade pill press as part of a drug sting.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary held a press conference in St. John’s to give details and display their haul from Operation Rhino, seized from three houses on the Avalon Peninsula.
More than 700 pounds of illicit marijuana and 1,000 grams of cocaine were seized in the bust, along with several other illegal items totalling more than $6 million in street value, according to the RNC.
Police also seized more than $180,000 in cash, six firearms, body armour and two vehicles.
Supt. Tom Warren said the drug unit started the investigation in September 2019 after an uptick in drug-related activity.
“Investigators believed there to be an enterprise involving the mass production of non-pharmaceutical-grade pills operating within our community,” Warren said.
“This collaboration by our officers sends a loud message that this activity has no place in our community.”
‘Complex’ organization spans Canada
Three people have been arrested and released. While no charges have been laid as of Thursday, Warren said charges are pending.
He said the bust was a “national-scale” operation, and thanked RCMP members in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, and local police in Thunder Bay, Ont.
“The organized crime group that we’re dealing with, I would suggest, are quite complex,” Warren said. “They have associates not just from our province, but across Canada.”
Warren said the pill press poses a risk for drug users in the province due to the risk of cross-contamination from potentially lethal substances like fentanyl. The press can produce about 20,000 pills an hour, and appears to have been purchased from the dark web, Warren said.
Nothing in the RNC’s investigation has led them to believe Operation Rhino is related to other police business in St. John’s over recent weeks, such as the killing of James Cody on Craigmillar Avenue or the discovery of fentanyl in a house on Campbell Avenue.