Burnaby man arrested in drug smuggling operation

A Burnaby man is among six people charged in connection with a cocaine and ecstasy smuggling operation, says the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC).

The charges follow a CFSEU-BC investigation that spanned B.C., California, Mexico and Peru. The investigation began in 2008 after a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that Canadian and American citizens were using a sophisticated system of encrypted smartphones to organize international drug transactions.

Investigators learned that several of the accused travelled throughout North America and South America, buying cocaine and importing it into Canada, then exporting ecstasy to the U.S.

Police made a number of drug seizures, with the first in 2008 when 23 kg (117,000 pills) of ecstasy were seized in Princeton, B.C. Later that year, another 121 kg of cocaine were seized at the Pacific Border Crossing while a few days later at the same border crossing, another 97 kg of cocaine was found hidden inside a commercial transport truck carrying bananas.

In May 2009, 10 kg of cocaine were seized in Burnaby.

The investigation concluded with seven warrants executed in June 2009 at homes in Burnaby, Chilliwack, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and the Lake Country (between Kelowna and Vernon).

Those searches led to 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.

Christopher Lloyd Mehan, 40, of Burnaby has been charged with one count of conspiracy to import 97 kilograms of cocaine.

Khamla Wong, 42, formerly of Abbotsford and Jeremy Albert Stark, 38, of Langley are each charged with one count 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. Wong remains at large and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Also facing a variety of drug charges are Matthew James Higgins, 28, of Powell River, Hernan Osvaldo Veloso, 50, of Vancouver, and Robert Charles Arthur, 32, of Surrey. Arthur is currently out on bail.

Stark, Mehan, Higgins and Veloso will appear in court Sept. 12 in Surrey.

“We took a significant amount of drugs off the streets during this investigation," said CFSEU-BC spokesperson Sgt. Ghalib Bhayani, in a press release. "The cocaine alone represents a street value (per gram) of over $17 million.”

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