Alleged B.C. drug traffickers, conspiring killers' court cases underway

Drug busts, murder in court

Court proceedings have begun in Vancouver and Abbotsford for eight men connected to alleged drug trafficking conspiracy, the investigation into which also resulted in three murder conspiracy charges.

The initial charges against five men were the culmination of a multi-jurisdictional, transnational organized crime investigation that resulted in a series of raids for the execution of search warrants March 1, 2023.

Locally, the investigation included work in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Delta, Richmond and Surrey.

Police raids Feb. 21 and Feb. 23 led to the arrest of eight suspects.

The cases are spread across three courthouses due to the nature of the charges and police investigations.

Facing charges are: Richard Sen, 52; Kevin Moebes, 44; Michael Rast; Jagdeep Singh Cheema, 31; and Michael Manpreet Johal, 32.

The charges include producing and trafficking controlled substances for a criminal organization.

Variously, the men are charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking fentanyl, carfentanyl, para-fluorofentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA and/or ketamine and benzodiazepine.

Moebes also faces charges of allegedly possessing a semi-automatic rifle, a pump-action shotgun and an oversized magazine while not having a licence to do so.

Sen is additionally charged with allegedly having a pump-action shotgun without a licence.

Lawyers for Moebes, Sen, Rast and Cheema appeared before Vancouver Provincial Court Judge David St. Pierre. The case has been put over to March 25.

Defence lawyer Michael Klein, acting for Cheema, said his client is putting together a bail package. Cheema returns to court March 8.

Sen is also finalizing a release plan, said Tyson Talhan, articling student with lawyer Chris Johnson.

Moebes is already out of custody, defence lawyer Danny Markovitz said.

The Court Services Online database shows Rast and Moebes were released on bail of $10,000 each with $5,000 deposits.

Man gunned down

Johal also faces charges of conspiracy to murder Gagandeep Sandhu. The conspiracy is alleged to have taken place between Dec. 1, 2022 and March 1, 2023.

The alleged target of the murder conspiracy charge was later gunned down in Burnaby on Sept. 16, 2023. There, RCMP responded to a report of shots fired in the 3400-block of North Road. Officers arrived on scene and found a deceased man, later identified as Gagandeep Sandhu, 29, of Abbotsford in an underground parkade.

Shortly after, a vehicle fire was reported around Greenwood Street and Bainbridge Avenue. Officers located a black Honda Pilot engulfed in flames.

Johal’s file is in the North Vancouver courthouse. Documents allege Johal conspired with a person known a “johnwick7” and others to commit the murder of Sandhu.

Johal is not charged with Sandhu’s killing.

Three others were subjects of an Abbotsford Police Department investigation with links to the RCMP files. There, Gavinder Steven Siekham, Navpreet Singh Dhaliwal and Anmol Singh Sandhu have all been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in November 2022 in Abbotsford.

The Abbotsford investigation

Abbotsford Police Department (APD) said its drug enforcement unit began an investigation into alleged drug trafficking behaviours of two individuals identified as Sandhu and Dhaliwal of Abbotsford in late 2022.

That work culminated in the execution of multiple search warrants in Abbotsford and Surrey leading to both Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act charges.

But, as that investigation progressed, APD officers came across evidence leading them to believe a murder conspiracy might be involved.

“Over several months of investigation, officers identified evidence that Gavinder Siekham was conspiring with Anmol Sandhu and Navdeep Dhaliwal to murder rival gang members who are all active within the ongoing and brutal B.C. gang conflict,” the APD said.

All three were arrested Feb. 21 and charged in the alleged conspiracy.

Further, Sandhu and Dhaliwal were charged with alleged drug offences.

Court online records show Siekham and Sandhu are due back in Abbotsford Provincial Court on March 14.

The Metro Vancouver search warrants

The March 2023 searches in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Delta, Richmond, and Surrey resulted in seizures of counterfeit pharmaceutical pills, multiple firearms, cash, electronic devices, large quantities of precursor chemicals and multi-kilograms of other illicit substances.

It also uncovered a sophisticated pill-pressing operation at one of the homes in South Surrey, with evidence of large-scale polydrug production activities that involved the mixing of fentanyl and its analogues, into counterfeit pharmaceutical pills, RCMP and the Integrated Homicide Team (IHIT) said in a news release.

The analysis of the seized pills also revealed the alarming presence of carfentanil in most of the pressed pills, police said. Carfentanil is a powerful synthetic opioid used as a tranquilizing agent for large animals such as elephants.

Police said carfentanil has a toxicity level a hundred times that of fentanyl and 10,000 times that of morphine.

Due to its lethal level of potency, there is virtually no way, even in a controlled laboratory setting, to safely cut and dilute carfentanil for use in the illicit drug trade, police said.

Police said it became apparent early in their work that numerous members of the alleged criminal network were known gang members involved in the gang conflict that has spread across B.C., and beyond.

Evidence uncovered also allegedly linked one of the suspects, Michael Manpreet Johal, to a murder plot, which expanded the Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) investigation into a joint effort in support of IHIT.

Police description of seizures

Half a million pills could have been created from the seized drugs, police said.

The seizures from all locations yielded a total of 356,000 counterfeit polydrug pills that included Adderall, Xanax, Percocet, OxyContin and Oxycodone, police said.

The vast majority of the pills also contained carfentanil, and a mixture of methamphetamine, benzodiazepine, heroin and MDMA.

The seized quantities and makeup of each drug category were: 112,000 counterfeit OxyContin pills containing fentanyl, carfentanil, para-fluorofentanyl and heroin; 7,500 counterfeit Supeudol (Oxycodone) pills containing fentanyl, carfentanil and para-fluorofentanyl; 107,500 counterfeit Oxycocet (generic Percocet) pills containing fentanyl and carfentanil; 23,000 counterfeit Adderall pills containing methamphetamine; and 106,000 counterfeit Xanax pills containing benzodiazepines, MDMA and fentanyl.

FSOC investigators discovered four illegal firearms, more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition and large quantities of precursor chemicals that seemed to have been prepared for mixing and pill pressing.

The seized precursor chemicals included 77 kilograms of powder containing fentanyl, 77 kilograms of powder containing benzodiazepines, 12 kilograms of powder containing methamphetamine and two kilograms of powder containing carfentanil.

This raw material could have produced an additional 185,000 fentanyl-containing polydrug pills, 28,000 methamphetamine-containing pills, and 258,000 MDMA-containing pills.

With files from Maria Rantanen

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