Ex-Bomber implicated in nationwide network

Eddie Blake

Eddie Blake

CARY CASTAGNA -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers lineman (Earthquake) Eddie Blake was one of more than a dozen people arrested yesterday in connection with an illegal international ephedrine distribution network. About 250 police officers raided 34 homes and businesses across Canada in the culmination of a massive undercover investigation dubbed Operation Diversion.

Police say ephedrine -- one of the main ingredients used to manufacture the illicit stimulant methamphetamine -- was being shipped from a Thunder Bay business to Winnipeg, Lac du Bonnet and Hanna, Alta.

"The product was then redistributed to black markets in Vancouver, Buffalo, N.Y., and Sacramento, Calif.," said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Steve Colwell.

Nearly two dozen officers stormed Blake's 2,400-square-foot home at 98 Bethune Way in St. Vital shortly after 6:30 a.m. yesterday, neighbours told The Sun.

One neighbour, who didn't want her name printed, said she awoke to the sound of police taking a battering ram to Blake's front door.

She watched as Blake, clad in a track suit, and his wife, Manjit, were taken away in handcuffs.

"He wasn't smiling. He was very serious," the neighbour recalled.

Cops scoured Blake's house with a dog yesterday looking for evidence. They also searched a limousine parked in his driveway and a black Cadillac with "PHATCAT" licence plates.

'JUST A JOKE'

Blake, a boxing promoter, recently sold Phat Daddy's Cabaret to start up Flava 107.9, a radio station devoted to hip-hop and R & B music.

Blake's friend, boxer Mathias (Mad Dog) Hughes, told The Sun that Blake has nothing to do with the alleged drug ring. "This is just a joke," he said.

Police also raided Trans-Canada Fitness in Lac du Bonnet and Winnipeg, as well as homes at 8 Stonegate Close in Whyte Ridge and 1105 Toshak Rd. in West St. Paul.

From the Whyte Ridge home, which was a rental property, officers seized a 2004 Dodge Viper and a 1990 Dodge Viper, along with a Honda Shadow 750 motorcycle, police said. From the West St. Paul home, cops seized at least one Dodge Viper.

Neighbours said the owner moved into the home just three or four months ago and immediately started a number of expensive renovations, including installing a large paved driveway lined with Victorian-style light standards, an iron gate flanked by two bison statues and a backyard deck.

"What I knew of him he was a nice guy," said one neighbour.

In all, 16 searches were conducted in Manitoba.

Raids were also done in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and the United States. Investigators seized an undisclosed quantity of ephedrine, cash and firearms.

Details of the massive investigation will be released this afternoon at a press conference.


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