Lower Mainland men charged in cocaine, ecstasy conspiracy

Drug raids began in 2008 after B.C. investigators tipped to plot by U.S. agents

Several Lower Mainland men face drug trafficking charges in connection with an international plot to import large amounts of cocaine and ship ecstasy to the U.S.

Police in B.C. had been tipped by U.S. drug agents in 2008 that several Canadian and U.S. suspects were using encrypted smartphones to organize drug deals on an international level.

The investigation ultimately spanned B.C., California, Mexico and Peru.

“We took a significant amount of drugs off the streets during this investigation,” said Sgt. Ghalib Bhayani, spokesperson for the B.C.’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.

“The cocaine alone represents a street value (per gram) of over $17 million.”

The charges come four years after officers first conducted a raid in Princeton that netted 117,000 ecstasy pills.

Subsequent raids in late 2008 uncovered 97 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a truck carrying bananas at the Pacific Border Crossing and 10 kilograms of cocaine in Burnaby in May 2009.

Police also searched homes in Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Lake Country in 2009, finding finding various prohibited handguns.

Charges of conspiracy to traffic and import cocaine and illegal firearm possession have been laid against both 38-year-old Langley resident Jeremy Albert Stark and Khamla Wong, a 42-year-old former Abbotsford resident who is presently at large and wanted by police.

Burnaby resident Christopher Lloyd Mehan, 40, is charged with conspiracy to import 97 kilograms of cocaine.

Surrey resident Robert Charles Arthur, 32, is charged with cocaine possession for the purpose of trafficking and is currently out on bail.

Matthew James Higgins, 28, of Powell River also is charged with conspiracy to traffick in ecstasy, as is 50-year-old Vancouver resident Hernan Osvaldo Veloso,