Police seized two handguns, some firearms parts and ammunition during a search of a New Westminster residence on Tuesday morning, according to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia.
Some Quayside residents were startled when heavily-armed police officers attended their complex on a quiet Tuesday morning. One witness told the Record he saw about 10 heavily-armed police officers in full tactical gear and two police dogs near his residence on K De K Court.
CFSEU-BC’s Illegal Firearms Enforcement Team announced Wednesday (today) that its investigation into alleged illegal firearms trafficking in communities across the Lower Mainland had resulted in charges against five men. A CFSEU-BC press release said the unit began an investigation into an alleged firearms trafficker in the fall of 2022, which eventually led officers to others who were allegedly involved in the sale of illegal firearms.
According to a CFSEU-BC press release, numerous firearms were seized after an investigation, in which the unit worked closely with the New Westminster Police Department.
Since January 2023, CFSEU-BC investigators have seized several firearms, including: two Kodiak Defence rifles with prohibited magazines and ammunition; a Polymer 80 handgun with suppressor, prohibited magazine and ammunition; a 1911-style .45 calibre privately made handgun with suppressor and ammunition; a .50 calibre rifle with ammunition; three Glock handguns; a Ruger handgun; a Beretta handgun; and additional ammunition, prohibited firearms-related devices, and suppressors.
On March 7, CFSEU-BC executed search warrants at various residences and businesses in Langley, New Westminster, Burnaby, Coquitlam, North Vancouver, and Maple Ridge.
Police say Tuesday’s searches resulted in the seizure of: six handguns; one .30 calibre rifle with prohibited magazine; one auto sear firearms part capable of making a firearm fully automatic; quantities of suspected fentanyl; approximately 1 kilogram of suspected cocaine; 80 litres of suspected PMK, a controlled substance precursor for making MDMA; body armour pieces; numerous prohibited firearms magazines and firearms parts; various calibres of ammunition; and Canadian currency.
"Some of them are firearms that can fire a significant number of rounds in a very short period of time,” said Staff. Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, media spokesperson for CFSEU-BC. “Some of the handguns have been converted to be fully automatic, which means that the magazines, and in some cases the prohibited extended magazines, can fire 20 30, 40 rounds in seconds. That, as you can imagine, is unbelievably dangerous.”
Houghton told the Record that two handguns, some firearm parts and ammunition were seized in New Westminster, but it was not one of the more significant seizures conducted on Tuesday.
"Anytime we can take a gun out of the hands, an illegal firearm out of the hands, of firearms traffickers, before those firearms get into the hands of gang members or people willing to hurt other people with those firearms, is a very good thing,” he said.
Firearms traffickers are not necessarily gang members, Houghton said.
"A lot of people act independently and aren't affiliated to any specific gang or organized crime group,” he said. “A lot of people do it to make money on the side, because, as one would expect, the black market for firearms is unfortunately lucrative.”
Houghton said no one was arrested at the New West location that was searched on Tuesday.
“It's an ongoing investigation,” he said. “So, there are currently no charges against anyone from that location.”
According to a CFSEU-BC press release, many of the firearms and prohibited devices seized during the course of the investigation and during the execution of search warrants on Tuesday remain in the process of being traced and forensically examined; however, early results indicate that the firearms have been sourced both domestically and internationally.
CFSEU-BC said it is working with its international partners, such as the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), to follow up on where the firearms originated.
“Firearms in the hands of the wrong people pose one of the greatest risks to public safety. We have seen time and time again that trafficked firearms, no matter where they come from, are being used in crime and too often end up connected to tragedy,” Insp. Joel Hussey, CFSEU-BC operations officer, said in a news release. “CFSEU-BC and its policing partners in British Columbia and across the country are determined to stop illegal firearms trafficking and reduce the impact that firearms-related violence has on our communities.”
CFSEU-BC thanked the New Westminster Police Department, the Lower Mainland Integrated Emergency Response Team, Coquitlam RCMP, the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) and other police agencies that assisted with the investigation.
“Because there was some fairly significant New Westminster connections, we engaged the New Westminster police very quickly,” Houghton told the Record. “And they were probably like our main partner in this throughout the investigation.”
Houghton said a New Westminster residence was one of the first locations to be identified as part of the ongoing investigation.
“We anticipate, because of what we found during the searches, that will there will be more charges against the people that we named charges against today,” he said. “And it depends on how the investigation goes, there may potentially be additional arrests in the future, and more searches even.”
Five men were arrested at various locations across the Lower Mainland and B.C. Prosecution Services approved charges of manufacturing or transferring a prohibited firearm, a restricted firearm or a non-restricted firearm knowing that they were unauthorized to do so under the Firearms Act: Arman Anthony Giordano, a 24-year-old man from Maple Ridge – 16 counts; Brandon Vuong Nguyen, a 28-year-old man from Burnaby – six counts; Ali Sabha Taghan, a 39-year-old man from Langley – five counts; Derek Melville Johnston, a 33-year-old man from North Vancouver – three counts; and Jerry Lino, a 30-year-old man from Coquitlam – one count.
CFSEU-BC’s mandate is to target, investigate, prosecute, disrupt, and dismantle the organized crime groups and individuals that pose the highest risk to public safety due to their involvement in gang violence.
“The NWPD are assisting CFSEU-BC in an ongoing multi-jurisdictional operation,” NWPD Sgt. Andrew Leaver said in a statement to the Record on Tuesday morning. “There is no risk to the public, and more details will be provided at a later time by CFSEU-BC.”