A sophisticated coke laboratory in the midst of the Laurentians

A group of drug dealers linked to the Lebanese underworld is said to have operated a sophisticated cocaine production laboratory in the heart of the Laurentians in the utmost secrecy.

Don’t look for a coca plantation down a cul-de-sac in Lachute, you won’t find one. The plant used to make cocaine grows in sunny South America, mainly in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

What a spinning team from the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) unearthed in a remote corner of the Laurentians in the spring of 2017 is more of a laboratory destined for the propagation of this hard drug.

In a garage next to an unoccupied apartment building on Thomas-Gore Road, the sleuths confiscated an entire arsenal: five cocaine drying ovens, a hydraulic press, a sealing machine, grinders, scales, moulds, various heavy-duty logos and goggles.



In March 2017, a plane carrying 132 kg of cocaine was forced to land in the state of Ohio.



With kind approval

In March 2017, a plane carrying 132 kg of cocaine was forced to land in the state of Ohio.

“This one is one of [laboratoires les] more demanding than I have seen in my career,” said Martin Bernard in the summer of 2021 at the Saint-Jérôme courthouse.

The police officer with more than 20 years of experience acted as a witness in the investigation against Joseph Frenn. The 32-year-old Laval resident is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and manufacturing cocaine, a charge rarely found in Quebec courts.



Joseph Frenn is tasked with making coke.



Photo by Facebook, Joseph Frenn

Joseph Frenn is tasked with making coke.

He will appear in court next month.

According to our sources, Joseph is the youngest of the four Frenn brothers targeted by police in connection with Project Affliction, which involved a large-scale drug trade.

Although several family members of Lebanese origin were observed during the SPVM investigation, he is the only one charged in court.

Before Judge Sophie Lavergne, investigator Bernard explained at length the overall complex process that would have been used by the group of drug dealers to multiply the cocaine.

Commonly called suppress In the criminal world, the technique consists in breaking the coke obtained in the form of bricks and adding a substance to it to increase its volume. The drug is then reformed into more bricks and sold to large merchants.

Usually “between 10 and 15% reduction [est ajoutée] to maximize profits,” Martin Bernard told the court.

In the case of the Lachute lab, mannitol — a food additive — was found on the premises.

When the cartels produce one-kilogram bricks, they usually affix logos that, in the eyes of foreign buyers, vouch for the origin but also the quality of the cocaine.

This can be a dolphin, a snake or a scorpion, for example.

In the Laurentians’ lab, however, the police would have gotten their hands on parts of Coroplast that reproduced the cartels’ logos almost perfectly.

In order to pretend that the cut coke had arrived that way, “they copied the stamp that the cartels had made in the country of origin,” said investigator Bernard.

The packaging of the new kilos, made of several layers of plastic, was also designed in such a way that it imitated the cartel technology.

The sniffer dogs found that black rubber was also used to cover some bricks to reduce moisture during transit and to mask odors. “So it was reproduced to simulate provenance once again,” summarizes investigator Bernard.

During the investigation, which lasted several months, the police seized 35 kg of cocaine. Such a quantity of drugs has a total street value of approximately $1.75 million.

During the dismantling of the laboratory in April 2017, the SPVM stated in a press release that “the members of this network acted as suppliers of narcotics to the Italian mafia and outlaw bikers”.



After the dismantling of the Lachute laboratory, five people have already been convicted.  Left to right: Martin Lauzon, Michel Jacques, Daniel Poulin, Jihad Saoumaa and Tony George Saoumaa.

courtesy pics

After the dismantling of the Lachute laboratory, five people have already been convicted. Left to right: Martin Lauzon, Michel Jacques, Daniel Poulin, Jihad Saoumaa and Tony George Saoumaa.

Did the Hells Angels and the Mafiosi know that the drug they received was of lesser purity? Impossible to answer this question, which was not asked in Joseph Frenn’s preliminary investigation.

What ties the 32-year-old defendant to the Lachute lab is the discovery of his DNA in one of the three Versaflo masks found at the site.

These are hyper-sophisticated masks resembling balaclavas that cover the entire head. They are equipped with a visor and a tube on the back of the head to optimally filter the air. This type of gear sells for $1500-$2000 per unit.

Frenn’s left thumbprint was also reportedly taken from a scale.

Finally, the defendant was seen dozens of times by spinning teams with the organization’s couriers, who are responsible for transporting the cocaine.

Among other things, they would often go to his house with sports bags in hand, to a luxurious residential tower in Laval.



Several of the organization's couriers would have gone to his home, to this luxurious apartment tower in Laval.



Photo Pierre Paul Poulin

Several of the organization’s couriers would have gone to his home, to this luxurious apartment tower in Laval.

Twice Frenn is said to have appeared with them on the laboratory site.

Interestingly, three of the officers’ targets drove gray Honda Fits fitted with hard-to-see and virtually impenetrable magnetic covers.

Joseph Frenn’s attorney tried to explain the police observations by saying that her client and the runner Network were childhood friends.

“What we blame most on Mr Frenn here is having friends who might get soaked in traffic. Does that make him a guilty person? Not at all,” Me Danièle Roy asked, hoping that her client would be cleared of the charges.

Judge Sophie Lavergne disagreed. “Although other explanations are possible, the court notes that for the purposes of the preliminary investigation, the evidence could prompt a well-informed jury to return a guilty verdict,” she said.

The judge thus agreed with the Crown’s theory, represented by Me Jennifer Lepage, who alleges that this cocaine distribution network was run by the Frenn brothers.

Although only the eldest has a criminal record – for possession of criminally obtained property – the Frenn brothers would be viewed by authorities as major players in the criminal world.

According to our Bureau of Investigation sources, a shipment of 300 pounds (132 kg) of cocaine seized a week before the Lachute lab was dismantled in Ohio was intended for her.

The drugs were on a plane that had to urgently land on American soil because of mechanical problems. The Piper had on board two residents of the Laurentians from Quebec.

Pilot Sylvain Desjardins and his passenger David Ayotte left the Caribbean with a cargo of coke hidden in the plane’s tail and were scheduled to fly to Windsor, Ontario.



On board are pilot Sylvain Desjardins (above with glasses) and passenger David Ayotte, two residents of the Laurentians.

courtesy pics

On board are pilot Sylvain Desjardins (above with glasses) and passenger David Ayotte, two residents of the Laurentians.

They were sentenced in the United States to 96 and 63 months in prison, respectively.

– With the collaboration of Nicolas Brasseur and Marc Sandreschi

Five people have already taken their bills to court after the lab was dismantled in 2017. Jihad Saoumaa and Michel Jacques were sentenced to four years in prison for possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, and Daniel Poulin to three years in prison. For his part, Martin Lauzon was serving a year in prison followed by 12 months of probation. Finally, Tony Georges Saoumaa was sentenced to one year in prison for possession of criminally obtained property.

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