An OPP press release dated September 27 indicated that a cannabis grow operation in River Valley was shut down as a result of search warrants at two residences on September 15th. Police seized one firearm with ammunition, two crossbows, drug paraphernalia, packing materials, residential and financial documents, over $700K in Canadian currency, cannabis in various stages of production, various consumable products containing cannabis, suspected cocaine and methamphetamine tablets, all with an estimated value of $8 million.
Three people were charged with various offences, two men and one woman. Marc Ayotte, 33, of West Nipissing, was charged with cultivating, propagating or harvesting more than 4 plants, possession for the purpose of distributing / selling, careless storage of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine. Douglas Hines, 48, and Zsanett Perger, 41, both of River Valley, were charged with possession of property obtained by crime over $5K, and possession of cannabis for selling / distribution. Hines was also charged with possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition.
The cannabis growers reportedly had their establishment on Guillemette Road, and the facility was known to many River Valley residents. Rolly Larabie, councillor for Ward 6 (River Valley), estimates the facility had been in operation for about 10 years and employed local residents who were under the impression that it was a licensed operation. In 2019, the Tribune tried to contact Doug Hines to interview him on the operation, however phone calls were never returned. The Tribune tried to also contact him through a third party, and was told that Mr. Hines preferred not to speak publicly about his operation to discourage any vandalism or theft on the property.
It came as quite a surprise to local residents when the news was released of the seizure. Upon contacting the OPP media relations, there was little further information provided as to whether Mr. Hines ever did possess a license in Canada to grow cannabis, or a license to produce edibles. OPP media relations also could not say whether the children of Hines-Perger were removed.