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279 charges laid in Ontario's largest illegal weapons bust

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Sixteen individuals face charges after the most significant weapons bust in the province's history, with officers seizing illegal handguns, assault rifles and drugs with an estimated street value of $3.25 million.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) collaborated with the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to seize a total of 274 illegal firearms. Of these, 168 were confiscated in the U.S., with the remaining 106 seized in Ontario.

The investigation, dubbed Project SAXOM, got underway in early 2023, and targeted individuals involved in firearm trafficking in the Greater Toronto Area. Officers conducted undercover operations to infiltrate criminal networks engaging in illegal firearm activities.

"As the investigation progressed, additional suspects belonging to five distinct criminal networks were identified," OPP stated in a release on Thursday.

Search warrants were carried out across the GTA and Niagara Region last week, resulting in the seizure of various weapons and drugs, plus $63,332 in Canadian cash and $4,689 in American dollars. Additionally, police say officers confiscated a silencer, a conducted energy weapon, 20 brass knuckles, prohibited knives, and firearm magazines.

A total of 279 charges have been laid under the Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, with six individuals facing lifetime firearms prohibition bans.

Police say one person from St. Catharines remains at large.

Project SAXOM remains an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information about illegal firearm or drug trafficking is encouraged to contact the authorities or Crime Stoppers anonymously.

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