Two individuals charged in a joint police operation that netted the largest seizure of fentanyl in Sault Ste. Marie Police Service history have both been busted in the past for drug trafficking activity in northeastern Ontario.
On Monday, police in the Sault rolled out its haul of illicit drugs with an estimated street value of $470,000 — along with stacks of cash totalling roughly $74,000 and a photo of a seized vehicle — stemming from Project Otter, a joint operation between Durham Regional Police Service, Thunder Bay Police Service and police in the Sault which resulted in five people being charged with trafficking fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.
“I want the community to understand the value this has in public safety; getting this poison off the street saves lives, and that’s the value of multiple jurisdictions working together on a common target or group — and it’s very effective,” said Sault Ste. Marie Police Service Chief Hugh Stevenson during a news conference held at police headquarters Monday morning.
SooToday has confirmed that two of the people arrested and charged in Project Otter — 20-year-old Maurice Fidd of Toronto, Ont. and 25-year-old Oshane Davis-Forbes of Brampton, Ont. — have been arrested and charged with similar drug offences in Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury within the past two years.
According to a Sudbury Star article, Davis-Forbes was charged with fentanyl possession for the purpose of trafficking in May 2022 after Greater Sudbury Police officers found six grams of fentanyl, cash, packaging material and scales in a Sudbury apartment.
Davis-Forbes pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of fentanyl possession. He also pleaded guilty to breach of recognizance and obstructing a police officer.
He was on a bail order — which included a condition that he resides with his surety at a Brampton residence — at the time of his arrest in Sudbury.
Fidd, meanwhile, is known to police in Sault Ste. Marie; he was one of four people charged in May 2021 with firearms and drug offences after officers executed a search warrant in the 300 block of Third Avenue.
A 30.06-calibre rifle, 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, digital scales, packaging material, and substances believed to be cocaine and methamphetamine were all seized, along with $5,590 in Canadian currency.
All four of the accused were held for bail court.
Both Fidd and Davis-Forbes will go through the courts again once again in northern Ontario after Project Otter netted more than $1 million in illicit drugs, including more than 700 grams of fentanyl — a record one-time seizure of the drug by Sault police.
Sault Ste. Marie Police Service says two of the accused in Project Otter were out on bail for similar offences.
That's part of the reason the Sault’s chief of police is applauding Ottawa’s plans to examine bail reforms after receiving a letter from premiers calling for changes to the country's bail system.
“As I’ve said before publicly, any piece of legislation that was enacted pre-COVID through a variety of challenges all communities have had needs to re-examined, and the reason I’ve said to you all the reason it needs to be re-examined is we continually see people on release — whether it’s violent crimes like this or property crimes in this city, the deterrent effect of this justice system has been impacted by Bill C-75,” said Stevenson, speaking with reporters Monday. “You know, I get comments from politicians, from associations, from the public saying, ‘chief, something has to be done,’ and I applaud the federal government for taking the time to look into it.”
The recent arrests and drug seizures made in Project Otter come at a time where street gangs from the Greater Toronto Area have been chasing large profits through trafficking in rural, northern and Indigenous communities across the province.
The disturbing trend was documented in the first installment of Village Media's The Big Read: How Toronto-based street gangs are terrorizing small-town Ontario.
It’s no different in the Sault, where law enforcement has been bumping up its spending over the past few years as drug-related activity continues to ramp up in the city.
“My message to the community is this: if you’re profiting from this poison and harming our community, we will seize your drugs, we will take your cash and your property and put you before the courts,” Stevenson said.