A joint investigation between Ontario Provincial Police and U.S. authorities has led to the largest gun bust in the province’s history.

Handguns and assault-style rifles were among the 274 illegal firearms seized as part of Project Saxom, according to CP24

The operation was part of an OPP-led investigation in cooperation with Dual Approach, a U.S. Homeland Security Investigation probe launched out of their field office in Buffalo, NY. 

U.S. investigators seized 168 guns heading for Ontario and the OPP seized an additional 106 guns that had already made it into the province. 

Five separate criminal networks were ultimately identified by the investigation. 

The investigation was launched in the U.S. last fall to impede a “transnational criminal organization” operating out of the U.S. and Canada, confirmed Homeland Security Special Agent Matthew Scarpino, who led the operation out of Buffalo. 

“The criminal network sought to establish a firearm smuggling pipeline from the United States, specifically Florida, into Ontario, Canada utilizing international ports of entry in Buffalo, Niagara Region,” Scarpino told reporters during a press conference at OPP headquarters in Orillia, Ont. on Thursday.

Among the arrests made was a U.S.-Canadian dual citizen, who police allege trafficked firearms from Florida into Ontario.

The Canadian side of the investigation was launched several months earlier in 2023.

“The focus of Project Saxom was to infiltrate a group of individuals who were seeking to traffick firearms in the Greater Toronto Area,” said OPP Det.-Insp. Lee Fulford at Thursday’s press conference.

“Additional suspects belonging to several criminal networks were identified.”

OPP executed 17 search warrants throughout the GTA as well as the Niagara Region, resulting in seized drugs as well as weapons.

One suspect in the Project Saxom investigation remains at large, while 16 others have been arrested, facing a total of 279 charges combined.

Of the illegal firearms seized on the Ontario side of the border, 88 were handguns, including AR and AK pistols, Fulford announced, noting that some of the weapons had been converted to allow for automatic firing. 

The majority of guns seized in Ontario originated in the U.S.  

“What was alarming was the speed at which the firearms would be resold after entering the province,” said Fulford.

“Our investigation revealed that the firearm suppliers would obtain lists of available firearms for sale. Within days, or even sometimes hours, all of the illegal firearms would be sold.”

OPP confirmed that the seizure also included 1,700 rounds of ammunition, fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, magic mushrooms and large quantities of methamphetamine.