Penticton men swept up in gun trafficking bust

Tip leads to 10-month undercover operation, focused on Florida, Montana, Lousiana as well as the Okanagan

Two Penticton men were arrested, and subsequently released, for their alleged involvement in an international gun trafficking ring.

“One was arrested after officers stopped him, and a man he was with, in a vehicle, with officers finding seven firearms and prohibited firearms-related devices including a silencer in the car,” said Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. Chief Officer Dan Malo, at a press conference in Vancouver on Thursday.

Maureen Guylas, media liaison for the CFSEU-BC, confirmed two Penticton men were arrested but no formal charges have been laid yet so their names cannot be released.

The gun trafficking investigation is continuing and Malo said they expect further charges to be laid.

Vernon man, Riley Stewart Kotz, 32, was a primary target formally arrested on Oct. 19 and charged with 34 firearms related offences.

Malo said Kotz allegedly tried to pull out a handgun hidden in his clothing in an effort  to disarm two of the arresting officers before he was able to be handcuffed. Simultaneous to this arrest and the Penticton arrests, warrants were executed in Pace, Florida where a woman associated with the suspect was arrested.

Officers searched houses in the 400 block of Bennett Street and 2000 block of Sandstone Crescent in Penticton, a storage locker in the 9900 block of Victoria South Road in Summerland and a home in Vernon. From these properties they seized close to 40 firearms.

Acting on a tip, the 10-month investigation began with undercover police officers purchasing numerous guns and accessories off of Craigslist that are illegal in Canada. These included magazines modified to increase their capacity, handguns, machine guns that were re-engineered and some that were made into fully automatic firearms.

Malo said it is believed some of the guns and magazines were purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into Canada by driving them across the border to be sold to the highest bidder. He said most likely the seized guns would have ended up in the hands of gangsters, some who would pay up to $4,500 for them.

CFSEU-BC recovered approximately 80 firearms, over-capacity magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition during the investigation which involved multiple agencies and spanned Florida, Montana and Louisiana as well as several communities in B.C. including Penticton, Summerland and Vernon.

“In the hands of untrained individuals, guns like the ones seized are highly uncontrollable and there is a significant risk for collateral damage should they be used,” said Insp. Jim Cunningham with the RCMP’s national weapons enforcement support team, who assisted the CFSEU-BC in the investigation.