Landlord Gets 20 Years in Record Opioid And Guns Operation

Written By John Goddard, Posted on June 3, 2023

His Previous Tenant was the Danforth Shooter’s Older Brother

The landlord who enabled an unprecedented drug-and-gun operation got a 20-year prison sentence this week, capping a saga that has curious links to Toronto’s 2018 Danforth Avenue shootings. 

Maisum Ansari of Oshawa rented out the basement of his second house in Pickering, east of Toronto, as a depot for nearly three dozen illegal guns, most of them restricted or banned, and as a lab for cutting the dangerous street opioid carfentanil with caffeine for the purpose of trafficking.

At trial, Ansari said he knew nothing about what was going on and couldn’t be blamed for his tenant’s activities. Justice Hugh McConnell, however, called Ansari’s testimony by turns contradictory, “bizarre in the extreme,” “divorced from the truth” and “a lie.”

In February, the judge pronounced Ansari guilty of more than 100 drug and firearm offences. When passing sentence Monday, he referred to Ansari as a “ready facilitator” in the production of the “most sinister” of street drugs — 265,000 doses of the carfentanil-caffeine mix worth up to $17 million, by far a Canadian carfentanil record. 

The basement tenant, Ansari’s childhood friend Babar Ali, pleaded guilty last year before a different judge and got a 23-year sentence, reduced to 18 years for time served, plus a $1 million fine. Ansari served almost no pre-trial time and while on bail even took two Caribbean vacations with his wife and three children. 

For the public dangers it posed, the case is a blockbuster. The hefty prison terms show how seriously the judges took it. The “exceptionally dangerous” carfentanil stash alone, Justice O’Connell said, posed a high casualty risk. The drug is said to be 40 times more toxic than the killer street drug fentanyl. Who was going to buy the 33 guns, including a fully automatic machine gun, was never established.

Major news organizations, however, have all but ignored the story. Similarly, for reasons unknown, no anti-gun politician has ever taken it up — not the prime minister, not the Ontario premier, not federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, and not Toronto Mayor John Tory. 

The operation might not have been discovered at all except by accident.

Late one night in September 2017, a basement carbon-monoxide alarm went off. An upstairs tenant rushed her family outdoors and called emergency services. She then called Ansari, who said “get rid of them,” meaning the responders.

Instead, she invited them downstairs and they found 42 kilograms of chalky lumps in trays and tubs, and discovered a closet full of ammunition, overcapacity magazines, and rifles and handguns packaged for sale. 

Forensic investigators matched Babar Ali’s fingerprints and DNA to the guns and drugs. The case against Ansari remained circumstantial, but Crown prosecutors Christopher Walsh and Amber Pashuk meticulously exposed his lies and traced his movements through cellphone tower pings.

Ansari’s previous tenant in the Pickering house was Fahad Hussein, on bail at the time also for drugs and firearms offences. He overdosed at the house and lapsed into a permanent coma. One year later, close to the anniversary, his younger brother, Faisal Hussein, walked along Danforth Avenue in Toronto shooting people paramilitary-style, leaving 13 people wounded and two dead. Then he killed himself.

Ansari, Ali and the Hussein brothers all grew up together as friends, all from  Pakistani immigrant families in the troubled Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood north of the Danforth.

John Goddard

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