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'Unlike any other': ALERT busts organized crime's illegal banks

ALERT says Project Collector began in July 2018 and resulted in the seizure of approximately $16 million in assets including cash and properties. (Supplied) ALERT says Project Collector began in July 2018 and resulted in the seizure of approximately $16 million in assets including cash and properties. (Supplied)

Authorities say seven people face charges, including three from Calgary, in connection with a lengthy investigation into organized crime that involved millions of dollars in money laundering.

The Calgary branch of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) as well as RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime say they have dismantled a money laundering operation that was being conducted with support of some of the country's largest organized crime groups.

Officials say Project Collector, a three-year-long investigation that began in Calgary, resulted in charges against seven people and the seizure of $16 million in bank accounts, real estate holdings and vehicles.

ALERT says the crime groups were transporting the proceeds of crime between Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and, in one year alone, they determined that $24 million in cash was transferred through the operation.

"This particular investigation is unlike any other previously conducted by ALERT," said Mark Cochlin, ALERT CEO, on Wednesday.

"Money laundering is a nuanced offence that is difficult to detect, let alone investigate."

Law enforcement only learned of the operation when $1 million – destined for Vancouver – was intercepted in Calgary in July 2018.

Project Collector has discovered the crime groups involved operated "pseudo-bank branches" that allowed them to transfer large sums of money without being detected. The source of these funds was primarily drug trafficking, authorities say.

"During the course of the investigation, search warrants were executed at a total of 10 homes in the Calgary region, Toronto area and Vancouver," ALERT said in a statement.

Police say 71 charges have been laid, including participation in a criminal organization, laundering proceeds of crime and trafficking property obtained by crime. There were also offences under the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.

The following people were arrested in September and face charges:

  • Lien Ha, 42, from Calgary;
  • Donald Hoang, 26, from Vancouver;
  • Van Duc Hoang, 64, from Vancouver;
  • Van Thi Nguyen, 62, from Vancouver;
  • Cynthia Nguyen, 42, from Calgary;
  • Yuong Nguyen, 43, from Calgary; and
  • Grace Tang, 25, from Vancouver.


Money laundering is a crime that organized groups use to legitimize funds acquired through illegal purposes, officials say. The individuals arrested were the ones who operated illegal banks for organized crime, police say, redirecting drug money into legitimate purposes, such as the real estate industry, which has a real impact on the daily lives of Canadians.

"The impact of money laundering is felt widespread across our society with far reaching political, social and economic impacts," said Insp. Jason Bobrowich with the Calgary Police Service. "In the case of Project Collector, this money laundering was working to support some of Canada's largest crime groups.

"Let me be clear – Project Collector took the cash out of crime. We slammed shut the accounts of some of Canada's largest organized crime groups."

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous. Top Stories

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