A 40-year-old Burnaby man is one of six people charged this week in a case involving the import of many kilograms of cocaine into Canada and the export of ecstasy into the United States.
The charges follow a Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia investigation that went from British Columbia to California, Mexico and Peru.
The investigation started in 2008 after information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that Canadian and American-based citizens were using a sophisticated system of encrypted smartphones to communicate and organize drug transactions on an international scale.
The investigation revealed that a number of the accused travelled extensively throughout North and South America, conspiring to buy cocaine and importing it into Canada and then exporting ecstasy into the U.S.
A number of seizures took place during the course of the investigation. The first was on Aug. 21, 2008 when 23 kilograms, or 117,000 ecstasy pills, were seized in Princeton, B.C.
On Dec. 20, 2008, another 121 kilograms of cocaine were seized at the Pacific Border Crossing in Surrey. A few days later, on December 24, a further 97 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a commercial transport truck carrying bananas was also seized at the Pacific Border Crossing.
In May 2009, another 10 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Burnaby.
"We took a significant amount of drugs off the streets during this investigation. The cocaine alone represents a street value (per gram) of over $17 million," CFSEU-BC spokesperson Sgt. Ghalib Bhayani said in a press release.
The investigation progressed for six more months and concluded with seven warrants executed in June 2009 at homes in Chilliwack, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and the Lake Country, which is the area between Kelowna and Vernon.
Those searches resulted in the seizure of four firearms, including a restricted 44 Magnum pistol and a number of prohibited firearms, including a 357 Magnum revolver, a 38-calibre semi-automatic pistol and a 40-calibre semi-automatic pistol.
The men charged are Christopher Lloyd Mehan, 40, of Burnaby, who faces one count of conspiracy to import 97 kilograms of cocaine; Matthew James Higgins, 28, of Powell River, who faces one count of conspiracy to traffic in ecstasy; Hernan Osvaldo Veloso, 50, of Vancouver, who faces one count of conspiracy to traffic in ecstasy and one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking; Khamla Wong, 42, formerly of Abbotsford, and Jeremy Albert Stark, 38, of Langley, who are each charged with one count of conspiracy to traffic 121 kilograms of cocaine, one count of conspiracy to import 97 kilograms of cocaine and one count of possession of a firearm; and Robert Charles Arthur, 32, of Surrey, who faces one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking 10 kilograms of cocaine.
Arthur is currently out on bail and Wong remains at large.
Stark, Mehan, Higgins and Veloso are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 12 in Surrey.