Police have arrested an eighth suspect in connection to an investigation targeting the cocaine drug trade in St. John’s.
Patrick Dooley was arrested Thursday. A warrant for his arrested was previously issued as part of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit - Newfoundland & Labrador (CFSEU-NL) case called Operation Battalion. The six-month wiretap investigation also used police resources in Vancouver and Montreal.
Dooley’s arrest is linked to an alleged plan to stage a fake motor vehicle accident. On Tuesday, police arrested five people in connection to that matter — Glenn Hussey, John Hutchings, Michelle Pike, David Rypkema, and Darrell Tucker. All face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud and public mischief. Tucker is also charged with extortion and impersonation.
Kurt Churchill of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s and Leroy Thomas of St. John’s are jointly charged with conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and three firearm related charges. Police arrested them after search warrants were executed at St. John’s International Airport, Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal and homes and vehicles in the St. John’s area. Items seized include $350,000 in cash, cocaine, weapons, and a truck.
Churchill is also charged with three counts of uttering threats, intimidation of a police officer and two more firearm related charges. In a news release, CFSEU-NL indicated further charges are likely for all eight suspects.
A joint forces operation involving the RCMP and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has led to several arrests in the St. John’s-metro, the seizure of $350,000 in cash, cocaine, a loaded handgun and other items that police say are connected to organized crime.
Operation Battalion is described as a Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-Newfoundland and Labrador wiretap investigation, targeting high level cocaine traffickers in the St. John’s-metro area.
Over the past six months, it expanded into Vancouver and Montreal and involved members of the combined forces unit - British Columbia in Vancouver and the RCMP Montreal drug section.
At a news conference at the RCMP headquarters in St. John’s, RCMP Supt. William Malone and RNC Staff-Sgt. Joe Gullage spoke to reporters about the operation.
Malone said search warrants were executed on March 14 at St. John’s International Airport, Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport, Montreal and residences and vehicles in the St. John’s area.
During the searches, investigators seized $350,000 in cash, cocaine, a loaded nine-mm prohibited handgun, ammunition, brass knuckles, a stun gun and a 2012 Toyota Tundra truck.
As a result of these searches, Kurt Churchill of Portugal Cove-St. Philips and Leroy Thomas of St. John’s were charged with conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and three firearm-related offences. Churchill was also charged with three counts of uttering threats, one count of intimidation of a police officer and two additional firearm charges.
Malone said on April 15, members of the combined forces unit also arrested five other people from the St. John’s area who allegedly planned and staged a fake motor vehicle accident.
As a result, Darrell Tucker, Michelle Pike, John Hutchings, Glen Hussey and David Rypkema have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud and public mischief. A sixth person Patrick Dooley has also been charged in connection with this incident and Malone said an arrest warrant has been issued for Dooley.
Tucker has also been charged separately with extortion and impersonation. Gullage said it’s alleged that he made calls impersonating someone else. “From our perspective, he was controlling activities here,” he said.
Gullage said people were taken to hospital from the fake accident scene but investigators believe they were all part of the conspiracy and there were no innocent victims.
The accident was allegedly staged Feb. 12 at 11:48 p.m. in the area of Groves Road and Gilles Place.
The investigation by the combined forces unit is continuing in St. John’s, as well as Vancouver and Montreal. To date, the eight people have been charged with 37 offences.
Malone said all eight know each other. Seven suspects have been released from custody with pending court appearances and Dooley is still being sought by police.
There have been no arrests to date in this investigation outside Newfoundland. However, police say further drug, weapon, possession of proceeds of crime and money laundering charges are expected.