Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jun 2008
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2008 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Paul Cherry
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Key Player Tied To Mafia, RCMP Say. Four Suspects Moved At Least 35 
Tonnes From Colombia Into Canada, Police Charge

Two Montreal-area men, including one living in the West Island, face 
charges alleging they were among the biggest suppliers of cocaine to 
organized crime groups in the city after a police investigation 
allegedly linked both to more than 60 tonnes of the drug smuggled 
into North America.

Firmino Tavares, 51, of Dollard des Ormeaux, was arrested at his 
luxury home on Northview St. yesterday morning. His house, estimated 
to be worth more than $1 million, was searched and placed under a 
seizure order by Revenue Canada. The government is seeking more than 
$1.8 million in unpaid taxes on undeclared revenue from his alleged 
drug trafficking activities.

A company on Tecumseh St. in Dollard des Ormeaux was also searched 
yesterday in connection with Project Caverne, a Combined Forces 
Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) investigation that began two years ago.

Meanwhile, in Blainville, Miguel Torres, a 36-year-old man with 
alleged ties to the Montreal Mafia, was arrested and his home was 
also placed under a seizure order. In Torres's case, Revenue Canada 
is seeking more than $7 million in taxes on undeclared revenue for 
alleged drug smuggling.

Two other men, who were already in custody, also face charges in 
connection with Project Caverne.

The investigation began in 2006 after the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administration in Texas passed on information to the RCMP. The 
information corroborated information gathered in past CFSEU investigations.

"It's immense when you look at the total of 60 tonnes implicated in 
this case," said RCMP Inspector Michel Arcand.

"According to elements of our investigation, the four suspects 
arrested (yesterday) morning were responsible for having imported a 
minimum of 35 tonnes of cocaine into Canada between 1996 and 2004."

Arcand said Torres is also suspected of importing 25 tonnes of 
cocaine for contacts in New York in 2002 and 2003.

Torres is alleged to have ties to the Montreal Mafia and, according 
to police sources, was targeted as a suspect in Project Colisee, the 
police investigation that resulted in more than 90 arrests in 2006, 
including the alleged leaders of the Rizzuto organization. Torres was 
not arrested in Project Colisee but now faces four charges alleging 
he imported cocaine into Canada while conspiring with an important 
Colombian cartel.

The charges filed at the Montreal courthouse allege all four men 
conspired with several Mexican and Colombian men who have already 
been indicted or convicted in high profile U.S. cases. Included among 
the list of co-conspirators is Victor Manuel Mejia Munera, a drug 
lord who was gunned down by Colombian police in April.

The two other men charged in Project Caverne are alleged to have 
worked underneath Arcand and Torres.

Giovanni (Johnny) Somma, 40, a man with ties to the Hells Angels 
chapter in Sherbrooke, was arrested at a Montreal halfway house where 
he was on day parole while serving a 2-year sentence for drug trafficking.

The fourth man, Gerardo Hurtado, 45, is currently serving an 8-year 
term at the Archambault penitentiary. He received the sentence in 
2005, after pleading guilty to taking part in a major drug 
trafficking conspiracy.
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