Red Deer RCMP have followed up a trio of Priority Crimes Task Force search warrants where large amounts of drugs and cash were seized in April by seizing $900,000 worth of property, including a house and two vehicles, as proceeds of crime.
While four people arrested by the task force on April 13th were charged at that time with multiple counts of drug trafficking and weapons charges, two now face further charges of money laundering and fraud.
Matthew Rose, 31 and Katherine Howe, 21 have been further charged with laundering proceeds of crime, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000.
Members of the task force have been on the scene at 87 Towers Close in Red Deer to oversee the seizure of the home, vehicles, and Canadian currency found within the residence.
“After we completed our initial investigation in April, based on evidence for the judicial authorizations and interviews, we determined that a large amount of assets were dervied from the proceeds of crime. The pre-cureser to this was the drugs – the house, cars, cash – we believe that is all from proceeds of drug sales,” said Const. Willian Lewadniuk, lead investigator, of the Red Deer RCMP.
The initial investigation Lewadniuk referenced was conducted by the RCMP Priority Crimes Task Force and addressed as a drug trafficking operation. On April 13th, the investigation culminated in three search warrants that were executed simultaneously on both sides of a duplex in Garrison Circle in Red Deer and the residence in Towers Close.
Police seized two shotguns, over 8kg or marijuana, 1.3kg cocaine, .35kg ecstasy powder, 388 ecstacy pills, almost 1.4kg psilocybin, one litre of hash oil, 88 grams of hash, 44 hash tablets and 240 oxy pills. Police also seized approximately $37,800, large amounts of drug paraphernalia and 21 cell phones.
The continuing investigation by the Red Deer RCMP Fraud Section, in collaboration with the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit and the Civil Asset Forfeiture Program resulted in the property seizure carried out last week.
“From there, we found evidence that Matthew Rose and Katherine Howe had further laundered proceeds of crime through a variety of separate bank accounts and other schemes,” Lewadniuk said.
“This is something that those two were doing before we ever did the initial search in April. This has been a lengthy process. You don’t just happen to come accross this amount of money all at once – you need to build up a certain amount to have a house like this. You don’t just get this off the streets.
“Obviously, this delves more into white collar crime. This is getting above street level at this point, maybe a layer above that. The items that are seized go to a Victims Restitution Front, and from there towns and cities can make applications to have those. For example, I believe the Women’s Shelter utilized items that were secured through Civil Asset Seizure. We’ve restrained the house and most of the contents in it and there will be a disposable date following this that is similar to a trial, but for property. If we don’t have any response, the property will be sold off at auction,” he said.
Corp. Bob Schultz of the Red Deer RCMP said officers were in the home on Towers Close under a search warrant this past April.
“We found evidence that supported these other charges. The sheer volume of evidence we found is what took the time to put together. That’s what (Lewadniuk) has done over the past four or five months. He partnered with our Civil Asset Forefeiture branch of the Alberta government, which helped him to go and secure the affidavit based on his information and that’s how we ended up with the seizure at that point,” said Schultz.
Mayor Tara Veer was on site to bring thanks to the RCMP members and associated investigators.
“One of the priorities in our Annual Policing Plan is reducing organized crime. We know that we have an issue and the establishment of the Regional Priority Crimes Task Force was in direct response to organized crime, not only in Red Deer, but the rest of the region as well,” she said.
“What we are seeing today is a direct result of local priority being placed on reducing organized crime.”
Officials said the seizure was in part thanks to an anonymous tip from a private citizen and encouraged residents to call the RCMP non-emergency line to report information they feel is necessary.