Toronto police say the discovery of 25 handguns hidden in the gas tank of a car at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie led to the dismantling of an alleged cross-border gun smuggling ring.
On October 31, a woman was stopped at the Peace Bridge and after an extensive search 25 handguns were allegedly found inside the car’s gas tank. (photos below)
Rima Mansour, 50, of Toronto was arrested and is facing numerous charges. She was the lone occupant in the car.
Police say her arrest was the tipping point for Project Belair — an investigation into the alleged smuggling ring that began in March 2018 in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the Canada Border Services Agency.
“These 25 handguns were so well concealed that it was only through exhaustive efforts that they were eventually located in the gas tank and seized,” Gun & Gang Task Force acting Insp. Donald Belanger said during a news conference on Wednesday at Toronto police headquarters.
“The handguns were actually in the gas tank immersed in gasoline,” he added. “Each gun had been individually packaged in plastic … For me this is absolutely a first.”
After the arrest on Halloween night police executed several search warrants throughout the GTA, allegedly seizing five more handguns, as well as cocaine, marijuana, and $45,000.
Alan Cunningham and Colin Levy, both aged 52 of Brampton, and William Datta, 41, of Ajax, were all arrested on November 1 and face a slew of drug and gun trafficking charges.
“I think we’ve effectively dismantled one firearms importation ring and that always has a positive impact on community safety,” Belanger said. “Every one of these guns — there’s one purpose for it — and they are going to be sold to the criminal element in Toronto and the GTA.”
Belanger said all but one of the guns still had its serial number intact and they’ve been linked to Florida and Georgia.
“What we are alleging is that lawful gun owners in the States are purchasing handguns for maybe $300 to $500, having them smuggled across the border and then selling them here … anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 on the streets of Toronto.”