The Wire was a special show in many ways. It exposed viewers to just what lengths drug dealers will go to maintain their empires, as well as how far the police will go to catch them. One memorable police tactic from the show comes from the “Reformation” episode (S3, Ep 10). In it, Bubbles coerces Squeak to convince her boyfriend, Bernard to buy burner phones from his “connect,” Freamon, who is posing as a conman named Calvin. Bernard was tasked with buying burner phones for the Barksdale organization. Freamon (as Calvin) negotiates a deal with Bernard to sell him pre-bugged Tracfones to give to the Barsdale crew.
Well, this tactic of selling the taps to the dealers was used in real life by police in Canada in stings to bring down major New Brunswick drug organizations, run by Shane Williams and Joshua Kindred. The operation was called J-Tornado. For it to work, police recruited a restaurant owner (there is a publication ban on his name) with a checkered past as an agent.
According to CBC News, the recruited agent “had connections to organized crime figures in Montreal and had been involved in illegal drug and gun activities dating back to 2002.” He was initially paid $1,000 a month to funnel customers to high-profile drug dealers, then moved on to bigger and better things. “Between 2002-2005 he would receive payment for persons approaching him looking for a supply of illegal drugs. Later between 2005 and 2007 [he] would make between $20,000 and $30,000 a year illegally from the sale of cocaine, hashish, pills and guns,” reads an affidavit by Erik Folmer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
He agreed to cooperate for a potential $600,000 payout. In his agreement with the authorities to gather info on the targeted drug outfits, the agent was paid $6,000 per month between March and September of 2014. He was also promised a maximum of $174,666.66 per milestone achieved and that all of his expenses— including “transportation, beverages and accommodation”– would be paid. He arranged the purchase and sale of drugs with various targets as police listened in and watched.
Most importantly, the agent was known for supplying underworld figures with secure cell phones. Police made him swap out the phones he was selling for pre-tapped Blackberrys, which he sold to the suspects. The scheme almost collapsed when Quebec police announced the success of the unrelated “Project Clamenza,” where intercepted Blackberry messages were used to bring down more D-boys. The suspects in J-Tornado grew suspicious, but they continued to use them.
The agent’s work resulted in the arrests of 33 people in September. So far, 13 of those suspects have been convicted and sentenced to between two and eight years in prison. Williams and Kindred were arrested two years ago and are on trial now. They face a mountain of evidence against them, but their lawyer, Brian Munro, has been trying to prove that the agent was the actual kingpin, who had at least 50 custies. CBC News reports:
Munro noted that before operations even started, police records show Anthony Edison approached the businessman asking to buy half a kilo of cocaine from him. That should have tipped police off to who the major drug dealer was, said Munro.