Vernon man facing 34 gun-related charges 0
Police recovered some 80 firearms intended for criminal use in B.C. in a 10-month investigation spanning B.C. and the United States. (CARMINE MARINELLI / 24 HOURS)
A Vernon man is facing 34 gun-related charges after a 10-month undercover police investigation into illegal weapons smuggled into Canada.
On Oct. 19, officers arrested Riley Stewart Kotz, 32, who was involved in the operation spanning from the U.S. to the Lower Mainland to the B.C. Interior.
The investigation recovered about 80 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition allegedly intended for criminal use in B.C. Some of the automatic pistols and rifles, modified to illegal specifications, each had a street value of over $4,000.
“Gang violence starts with ready access to weapons,” said Chief Officer Dan Malo of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. at a Vancouver area press conference Thursday. “That is an unacceptable risk to the public and to the police.”
Three Okanagan men were also arrested and subsequently released. There will be further investigation into their involvement, police said.
During the probe, undercover officers purchased illegal weapons through the Internet based on a tip in February. A Florida woman linked to Kotz was arrested with weapons and equipment used for manufacturing firearms.
Police also believe many of the firearms were purchased in the U.S. and smuggled across the border.
RCMP weapons expert Cpl. Frank Grosspietsch spoke of the devastation an AK-47 can cause.
“It’s made to kill,” he said. “That’s why the AK-47 was developed.”
He added B.C. is perfect for gun traffickers.
“We live in a very unique province. It’s cash rich for the criminal element,” he said. “That’s why the guns are coming here.”
Grosspietsch warned the seizure was only the “tip of the needle,” and there are many others weapons out there.
Four properties – three Penticton houses and one Summerland storage locker – were searched and found to contain 40 firearms.