Kootenay cops bust coke dealers

A 4 month investigation has resulted in 5 Castlegar men charged with trafficking cocaine and one Fruitvale woman wanted for pushing ecstasy.

A 4 month investigation has resulted in 5 Castlegar men charged with trafficking cocaine and one Fruitvale woman wanted for pushing MDMA (ecstasy).

A four-month investigation has resulted in five Castlegar men charged with trafficking cocaine and one Fruitvale woman wanted for pushing MDMA (ecstasy).

Several accused individuals made an appearance in Castlegar Provincial Court Wednesday in relation to the investigation dubbed “E-NARTHEX,” undertaken by the Castlegar Crime Reduction Unit.

The investigation, which started in June, involved utilizing undercover officers to make drug purchases from street-level drug dealers. Arrests were made at a later time once warrants for all sought after targets were processed to ensure word didn’t get out to the drug community first.

Drug trafficking is not an easy offence to investigate with conventional methods, according to Cpl. Darryl Orr, a non-commissioned officer in charge of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment’s municipal general investigation section that encompasses two crime reduction spots and one plain-clothes municipal employee in Trail and one crime reduction spot in Castlegar.

“You can make observations as a police officer, even in plain clothes as we are, but you have to have your ducks in a row in a big way, to be in the right place at the right time, even if you have good intelligence to witness a drug transaction for a trafficking charge to be successful,” he explained.

“One of the best ways to make sure that a charge is successful is to have your own undercover police officers make the drug purchases themselves.”

Forty-five-year-old Larry Fedor, Ashley Koftinoff, 36, 22-year-old Travis MacDermid, Kenneth Kurenoff, 19 and Andrew Cancela, 27, have been charged with trafficking cocaine while a warrant for the arrest of a 20-year-old woman has been issued for the offence of trafficking MDMA.

But the woman who was living in Fruitvale at the time of the operation has since moved to Alberta and police are now in the process of applying for an extended warrant to the neighbouring province.

Orr is certain that busts of this capacity have an impact on the local drug scene, though he said it’s often difficult to measure.

“The underline success of the operation isn’t just the people who are arrested at the end of it but it’s the shock wave that’s sent through the drug community after the fact and that’s where we’re seeing dividends that are being paid that might not necessarily be upfront and open,” he said. “You’re not going to see those kinds of statistics but I can tell you from policing both Trail and Castlegar that I’ve seen a definite reduction in street-level drug trafficking in both cities since we started utilizing undercover operations, that’s just a fact.”

The individuals in this investigation were known to the police and were easier to target because of local intelligence working under the one regional detachment in close proximity.

“When you have two communities this close together you’d have to be wearing a blindfold not to notice that the people dealing in Trail are also dealing here (Castlegar) and vice versa – these people will go anywhere to sell drugs,” he said, adding that popular drugs purchased locally include marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and OxyContin (a cheap substitute for heroin).

Inspector Nick Romanchuk of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment said police are focusing their efforts on the illicit drug trade and will continue to do so.

“The work done by the members of the Crime Reduction Unit in this investigation is nothing short of phenomenal,” he said in a news release. “The feedback we are receiving through our investigations is that we are being very effective.”