SCOTT ROSTS/Niagara This Week
ST. CATHARINES – Niagara Regional Police say a fire that caused “significant” damage to a property in St. Catharines was at a business connected to two brothers charged in a major drug smuggling operation.
Const. Derek Watson, spokesman for the NRP, said on Monday that police can confirm that the fire was at Artwood Flooring, but warned that police can’t confirm ownership of the business at this time.
Artwood Flooring has links to the major drug smuggling operation that police have been investigating over the past year.
Angelo Alessio, president of Artwood Flooring, and his brother Frank were arrested last February, in what was just the beginning of the Project INK investigation into drug trafficking under the control of Niagara-on-the-Lake native Nichola (Nick) Nero.
“It is the same business associated with the Alessio brothers but at this point we’re not able to confirm who owns it at this time,” said Watson.
Around 12:40 a.m. Monday, members of the St. Catharines Fire Department and Niagara Regional Police were called to the industrial complex at 454 Eastchester Ave. E., in response to a fire at a commercial property.
Arriving on scene, firefighters found the building fully engulfed in flames. Quick action by fire crews prevented the fire spreading to other units in the complex.
Preliminary damage is pegged at $1 million, according to St. Catharines Fire Department officials.
The fire is currently under investigation by Niagara Regional Police with assistance from the St. Catharines Fire Prevention Office and the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal.
“Police are treating the fire as suspicious,” said Watson, adding at this point it “is still too early in the investigation” to comment on the origins of the fire, and as to whether or not the incident is connected to the drug smuggling case in any way.
The property, located near the intersection of Eastchester Avenue and Dieppe Road, just east of Bunting Road, features a variety of industrial buildings, and businesses.
Signage indicates the building was home to Artwood Flooring’s showroom and warehouse, and it also bears a sign for Elmwood Cabinetry. A vehicle can also be seen inside the building destroyed by the fire.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the 1 District Detective Office at 905-688-4111, ext. 4272.
Information on crimes can also be submitted anonymously using Crime Stoppers of Niagara at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) online at www.niagaratips.com or text 274637 (CRIMES), keyword ‘Niagara’, then your tip.
Crime Stoppers guarantees that you will remain anonymous through any of the methods offered to provide tips. You may also be eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $2,000 if the information leads to an arrest.
- with files by Bullet News staff