The Crown has called all of its evidence in a trial for an accused fentanyl trafficker arrested during a high-risk 2015 drug raid in Yellowknife. Fifty-year-old Hassen Abdul Kerim Mohamed, of Burnaby, B.C., faces charges of possessing fentanyl, cocaine and marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
Inside, officers located Mohamed – and a heap of drugs and cash. The townhouse leaseholder and target of the raid, William Castro, from B.C. – who dove headfirst through a second-floor window in a bid to evade police during the raid – was arrested and charged along with Mohamed.
After pleading guilty in December of 2015, Castro received a six-year prison sentence for dealing cocaine, marijuana and fentanyl.
The major drug bust was touted by police as having a “significant impact on the safety of the community,” by disrupting the “trend of people temporarily setting up residence in Yellowknife to sell drugs,” Sgt. Dean Riou stated at the time.
The raid – and what officers found during the raid – was the focus of the four-day trial in front of Justice Shannon Smallwood, which wrapped up Thursday.
Crown prosecutor Duane Praught called eight witnesses – six police officers and one drug trafficking expert – to the stand during the trial.
The anatomy of the minutes-long raid was dissected throughout the first two days.
The Crown’s first witness, a former Yellowknife Mountie, told the court he was part of the emergency response team that entered the Finlayson Drive townhouse three years ago.
After members deployed a handheld diversionary device with the pull of a grenade-like pin – emitting a flash and a loud bang like a “shotgun blast” – the officer testified he encountered Mohamed in the second-floor bathroom.
After handcuffing Mohamed, the witness said he saw a baggie filled with a white substance between the defendant’s legs.
‘White substance-filled baggie’
His testimony about the bag found near the accused was supported by two other team members who took the stand to say they also saw the white substance-filled baggie.
Under cross-examination by Mohamed’s lawyer Jennifer Cunningham, the witness told the court the raid had targeted Castro, their primary subject, and two others – who were never charged.
Mohamed, he said, wasn’t a target.
And as another investigator testified Tuesday, Mohamed wasn’t even on the RCMP’s radar until days before the search warrant was executed, when the accused showed up at the Finlayson Drive house while Castro was under surveillance.
The same witness testified the Finlayson Drive search warrant was prompted by another major find just hours earlier.
In an agreed statement of facts reviewed by Yellowknifer, RCMP began to monitor Castro’s activity at a storage locker on Kam Lake Road in early 2015.
Police observed Castro enter the locker and leave multiple times over the span of two weeks. On April 15, 2015, RCMP conducted a covert search of the storage unit, seizing 538 grams of cocaine, 175 grams of powdered cocaine, 503 fentanyl tablets and cutting agent and thousands of dollars in cash.
With fentanyl being found, the investigator said the Finlayson Drive raid became a matter of public safety, as they believed more pills could be at the home.
The investigator said he found fentanyl pills wrapped in bags atop a fridge. Inside the fridge, he testified, were bags of marijuana stored in the “butter compartment” and the vegetable crisper.
He said a search of a safe in what they believed was Castro’s room yielded large sums of cash and cocaine.
The defence didn’t call any witnesses. Cunningham and Praught will submit closing arguments this morning. The defence is expected to contend that Mohamed couldn’t have been involved in
Castro’s drug operation because he’d only been at the residence for a few days.
Mohamed was set to answer to the years-old charges in September 2017, but as CBC reported at the time, the accused abruptly fired his lawyer as the trial began, telling the court he expected to be tried by a jury and not a judge alone.
The move forced a mistrial.