'It’s lucrative and there is a demand,’ deputy chief says of U.S. gun smuggling
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, November 7, 2018 11:29AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 7, 2018 11:52AM EST
Ordinary people with no prior criminal history are drawn to smuggling U.S. handguns into the GTA because the guns fetch 10 times their retail price and demand is still rising,Toronto Police deputy chief James Ramer said as officers displayed their latest haul of 30 pistols.
Three GTA men and one woman face a raft of offences after Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents found 25 gasoline-soaked handguns in the gas tank of a rented Nissan Rogue that crossed the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie last week.
On Oct. 31, the Nissan, allegedly driven by a 50-year-old Toronto woman, approached the Peace Bridge and was flagged by the CBSA.
It was brought to a nearby garage where the car’s gas tank was split in two and 25 handguns packed in plastic wrap fell out.
“There was an attempt to vacuum seal them – but it didn’t work, each gun ended up getting doused in gas,” Acting Insp. Don Belanger told reporters Wednesday.
The driver of the vehicle was immediately taken into custody.
The next day, police searched homes in Toronto, Brampton and Ajax, allegedly locating five more handguns, small amounts of crack and cocaine, and 13 kilograms of marijuana.
Three other suspects were arrested in the searches.
The guns are a variety of modern polymer-framed handguns and some older models. Police also seized 16 overcapacity magazines (generally carrying more than 10 rounds at a time) and 136 rounds of ammunition of various calibres.
All but one gun still had its serial number and some of the guns were traced back to legal purchases made in Georgia and Florida.
“Lawful gun owners (in America) are buying handguns for 300 to 500 dollars and then selling them here. These guns you see here could sell in the GTA between 3000 and 5000 (dollars),” Belanger said.
Deputy Chief James Ramer said there is increasing demand for handguns in the GTA despite high prices.
The four suspects charged were identified as Alan Cunningham, 52, of Brampton, William Datta, 41, of Ajax, Colin Levy, 52, of Brampton, and the alleged driver, Rima Mansour of Toronto.
“When you see the ages of the accused, these aren’t young people, these are people in their 40s and 50s who are funneling guns to criminal street gangs,” Belanger said.
Belanger said Mansour was not known to police prior to this incident.
“It’s lucrative and there is a demand,” Ramer said when asked about who is being drawn into the illegal gun trade.
A CBSA director with Toronto police said on Wednesday the biggest issue they contend with is U.S. tourists failing to declare their guns when they attempt to enter Canada.
But, he noted, agents detect a criminal attempt to smuggle multiple guns into the country at least once per month.