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Two charged in major RCMP drug bust in St. John’s

Two people charged in St. John's following a major drug bust Monday by the RCMP.
Two people charged in St. John's following a major drug bust Monday by the RCMP. - Joe Gibbons

Police estimate total street value for all types of drugs seized Monday in the range of $844,000 to just over $1 million

Two people are facing a number of charges following a major seizure of illegal drugs, cash, firearms, vehicles and body armour by the RCMP in St. John’s on Monday.

The RCMP St. John's Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit, with the assistance of the RCMP emergency response team, entered and searched a St. John’s residence after police seized three kilograms of cocaine originating in Montreal and destined for that address.

The search resulted in the largest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Charged are Tyler Nickerson Butler, 25, and Shae O’Keefe, 21, both of St. John’s.

Butler and O’Keefe were charged in provincial court in St. John’s on Tuesday with: six counts each of possession for the purpose of trafficking; one count each of trafficking cocaine; one count each of illicit distribution of cannabis; and three counts each of careless storage of a firearm.

Both accused have been released on bail, with multiple conditions, and are scheduled to be back in court on June 26. 

The RCMP says that the investigation is ongoing with a view to identifying additional charges and possibly other suspects.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Stefan Thoms said that what is termed as “Project Blowfish” was a significant seizure.

"Project Blowfish resulted in the seizure of three kilograms of cocaine, 350 grams of crystal methamphetamine – the largest amount of this drug ever seized in the province — various other controlled substances, multiple firearms, including two loaded shotguns, and seven sets of body armour,” Thoms said at a news conference.

“Just weeks ago, we announced details of the seizure of nine kilograms of cocaine as a result of ‘Project Bowman.’ These are large amounts of cocaine coming into our province within a short period of time – undoubtedly, organized crime groups are behind these shipments. 

“At this point, we have not determined any linkages between the two, but our investigation is ongoing. A priority of the Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit is the disruption of inter-jurisdictional criminal networks that are responsible for this scale of drug trafficking. While we have intercepted, in these two investigations, a total of 12 kilograms of cocaine and other drugs that were headed for the streets of the province, we know more are likely to follow.”

A news release notes that, normally, cocaine at the multi-kilogram level gets diluted several times while being prepared for use at the street level. The total street value for all types of drugs seized in Project Blowfish is in the range of $844,000 to $1,035,000.

The Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit for RCMP Newfoundland and Labrador targets criminal activity involving national security, transnational and serious organized crime and cyber crime throughout the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The total of the items seized during Monday’s operation are: three kilograms of cocaine; 350 grams of crystal methamphetamine; 300 blotters of LSD; 28 grams of molly (ecstasy); 120 oxycodone pills; 454 grams of psylocibin (mushrooms); 120 grams of hashish; 15 pounds of marijuana; hundreds of vials of various steroids; $90,600 cash; seven sets of body armour; six firearms including a loaded Kel-Tec tactical shotgun, a loaded pump action shotgun, a second pump action shotgun, a .22 calibre rifle and two handguns; three vehicles including a motorcycle, SUV and high-end sports car; high-end jewelery; and various items related to the sale and distribution of drugs.

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