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Used cocaine lately? It may contain a pig-deworming chemical

Anyone who consumed cocaine purchased from the 856 gang or its associates may have something in common with pigs — phenacetin.

Anyone who consumed cocaine purchased from the 856 gang or its associates may have something in common with pigs — phenacetin.

The drug, once used for pain relief, was taken off the Canadian market in 1973 because of concerns over kidney damage, according to the website DrugBank.

But Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said the drug is now used to deworm pigs and is also popular as a “buff” to dilute cocaine in order to increase profit.

Houghton said Wednesday that a about 44 kilograms of the “buff” worth $80,000 was seized as a result of a July investigation of drug dealing involving the 856 gang, so named because that is the telephone number prefix in the Langley-Aldergrove area where the group began operations about a decade ago as street-level dealers.

The phenacetin was part of almost $400,000 in drugs and other paraphernalia seized after police executed a search warrant July 23 on an apartment in the 4600 block of 236th Street in Langley.

The residence is a large home that Houghton estimated was approximately 10,000 square feet and which had been divided into suites.

“By taking quick enforcement action against a group known for its violence around B.C. and beyond, we have made a serious impact on their ability to further victimize people and we have made our communities safer,” said Houghton.

He said the CFSEU-BC, an anti-gang agency, began its investigation after a tip that there was drug dealing associated with the residence where the drugs were eventually found.

One man was arrested outside the home on July 22 and found to be in possession of significant quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine.

While he was being arrested, two other suspects in the investigation drove up to the scene. One was arrested but the other fled on foot, finally getting caught several hours later with help from the RCMP K-9 unit, the RCMP Air One helicopter and Langley RCMP.

After obtaining a search warrant for the next day, police went into the home and found what they believe was a drug processessing facility.

In addition to the ‘buff’, police found 2.5 kilograms of cocaine worth $150,000, 3.85 kgs of methamphetamine worth $100,000, 522 grams of heroin worth $55,000 and 123 tablets and pills of OxyContin worth $3,700.

There were also scales, carefully labelled grinders for the different substances and a press for compressing the coke into “bricks.”

The three men arrested, who are aged 23, 25 and 47, have been released. They have not been charged because police are still investigating before forwarding their recommendations about charges to crown counsel.

But the trio are believed to be high-ranking members of the 856 gang, which is positioned a level below such well-known criminal organizations as the United Nations gang and the Red Scorpions.

“Their presence here in the Lower Mainland isn’t as prominent as it is in some other communities because there are some higher profile, well-established groups [already in Metro Vancouver],” said Houghton.

“What we found with the 856 gang is they looked to other communities where there might be a gap in the drug market, where there might be supply and demand that they think they can fill,” he said.

As a result, the 856 gang has been active in B.C.’s north in places like Fort St. John, in the Yukon, Alberta and even Ontario.

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