OPP, U.S. Homeland Security disrupt ‘firearm smuggling pipeline,’ leading to biggest gun bust in Ontario’s history

OPP, U.S. Homeland Security disrupt ‘firearm smuggling pipeline,’ leading to biggest gun bust in Ontario’s history

Ontario Provincial Police say a joint investigation with authorities in the United States has led to the largest bust of handguns and assault-style rifles in the province’s history.

According to police, 274 illegal firearms were seized as part of Project Saxom, an OPP-led investigation in Ontario, and Dual Approach, a U.S.-led probe by Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) Buffalo field office.

Police said 168 guns destined for Canada were seized by investigators in the U.S. and 106 guns were seized by law enforcement in Ontario.

PHOTOS: A look at the weapons seized as part of the largest gun bust in Ontario’s history

HSI Buffalo Special Agent Matthew Scarpino, who led Dual Approach, said the purpose of the investigation, which was launched in the fall of 2023, was to disrupt a “transnational criminal organization” operating between the United States and Canada.


Suspect travelled to Florida to obtain guns, HSI alleges

“The criminal network sought to establish a firearm smuggling pipeline from the United States, specifically Florida, into Ontario, Canada utilizing international ports of entry in Buffalo, Niagara Region,” Scarpino said during a news conference at OPP headquarters in Orillia, Ont. on Thursday.

He said the investigation involved multiple undercover operations and ultimately led to the arrest of a dual U.S.- Canadian citizen, who police allege would travel to Florida specifically for the purpose of trafficking guns to Canada.

GunbustOn the other side of the border, the OPP’s provincial weapons enforcement unit launched its investigation in early 2023.

“The focus of Project Saxom was to infiltrate a group of individuals who were seeking to traffick firearms in the Greater Toronto Area,” OPP Det.-Insp. Lee Fulford told reporters at Thursday’s news conference.

“Additional suspects belonging to several criminal networks were identified.”

According to Fulford, police ultimately identified five separate criminal networks that were trafficking illegal weapons in the region.

In Ontario, 17 search warrants were executed in the GTA and Niagara Region, leading to the seizure of both guns and drugs.

Sixteen suspects have been arrested in connection with the OPP investigation and one suspect remains at large. To date, 279 charges have been laid in connection with Project Saxom.


‘Alarming’ how quickly guns were resold

Fulford said of the more than 100 firearms seized in Ontario, 88 were illegal handguns, including AK and AR pistols.

Some of the weapons, he noted, had been converted to fire automatic rounds. Fulford said the vast majority of the guns seized in Ontario originated in the United States.

Gunbust“What was alarming was the speed at which the firearms would be resold after entering the province,” Fulford said.

“Our investigation revealed that the firearm suppliers would obtain lists of available firearms for sale. Within days, or even sometimes hours, all of the illegal firearms would be sold.”

As part of Project Saxom, the OPP said 1,700 rounds of ammunition were seized, along with large quantities of methamphetamine, high-potency fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and magic mushrooms.