Marie-Anne Lafferty and her 79-year-old mother, Vitaline – two Ndilo women charged with eight drug trafficking offences – were heard speaking with convicted drug boss Todd Dube in wiretapped calls played to jurors Friday during day-three of the Supreme Court trial.
In the first of over 60 intercepted phone calls and text messages presented by prosecutor Duane Praught, Marie-Anne, 58, was heard answering a call from Dube in February of 2016.
Dube – sentenced to nine years in prison last October for leading a network that sold cocaine, fentanyl and other drugs – wanted to know where “Katrina” was. Marie-Anne was heard saying she’d try to get a hold of her.
Dube, an agreed statement of facts established, was referring to Katrina Stiopu – Marie-Anne’s daughter. Stiopu was handed a 4.5 year prison sentence in January after being convicted of stashing drugs for Dube.
The jury heard three more calls made by Dube to Marie-Anne. Each time, Dube said he needed to speak with Stiopu.
In a phone recording from March 11, 2016, Vitaline Lafferty told Dube her son was “uptown” when he called looking for him. “Okay, thanks,” he replied.
One week after the brief exchange, on March 18, Vitaline was pulled over in her blue Ford Escape near Fort Providence. Marie-Anne, along with a heap of drugs worth thousands, were inside the vehicle with her.
The stop was part of a sweeping drug probe dubbed Project Green Manalishi. The interception came after RCMP learned of a planned drug and cash transaction that was to take place in northern Alberta, just south of the NWT border, on March 18, 2016, a Mountie testified last week.
Based on wiretaps, police believed two women, driving a blue SUV, were supposed to meet the drug courier. The stop yielded 1.7 kilograms of cocaine, 5.8 kilograms of marijuana, 11 bottles of liquid codeine and 85 grams of MDMA.
Cpl. Len Larson, a drug trafficking expert, testified Friday.
“100 percent, that’s possession for the purpose of trafficking,” said Larson, looking at a photo of two cocaine-filled bags – one labelled “HH,” the other “MH” – seized by RCMP during the stop.
In the drug world, he said, the acronyms stand for “high heat” and “medium heat.” Larson said the former label indicates the product is of higher quality, letting dealers know they can add cutting agents to stretch profits.
By themselves, the two bags were worth as much as $75,000. With additives, that value could be doubled, Larson testified.
In a wiretap intercepted in March 2016, Dube was heard instructing an unidentified male to “cut it because it’s ‘HH’.”
The large quantity of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs seized from the SUV pointed to possession for the purpose of trafficking, Larson testified.
The bulk of the remaining intercepted communications – which featured several back-and-forths between Dube and Stiopu – were intercepted in the days and hours leading up to Marie-Anne and Vitaline’s arrest.
“Did you tell her he’s getting close this morning?,” Stiopu asked Dube on the day of the bust. “Yes, I did,” he texted back.
“Go for coffee when you get there. She’ll be waiting inside …,” Dube said in a call recorded hours later. On the other end was Eddy Radeka – an associate of Dube’s from B.C. who received a five year prison sentence in February 2017.
“Do I need a name?,” Radeka asked Dube in another call.
“Just say my name. When you get there, they’re already waiting … two older ladies,” Dube answered.
In another recording, the jury heard Radeka tell Dube he was getting close to the “border.”
All the while, members of the RCMP’s Federal Investigation Unit (FIU) were listening in. A roadside ruse disguised as a random checkstop was set up at kilometre 29 of Highway 3 near Fort Providence, where Marie-Anne and Vitaline were arrested on the spot.
On Thursday, footage of Marie-Anne’s subsequent police interview was shown to the jury.
After resisting Const. Joe Miller’s prying for nearly an hour, she admitted to participating in the pick up, but maintained she didn’t know how “serious” it was.
In exchange, Marie-Anne said she expected $1,000 to go towards her mother’s unpaid power bill.
Marie-Anne said she wasn’t getting paid herself, and refused to identify who directed her to the drugs. Marie-Anne said she didn’t want to be a “rat” and alluded to “consequences.”
“You know how scary the drug world is,” she said on-screen, wrapped in blanket at an RCMP detachment.
She told Miller she’d let her grandchildren down.
In court, she buried her face in her hands, appearing to weep, as the tape played.
The Crown closed its case on Monday morning.
Marie-Anne’s lawyer, Thomas Boyd, said he will call his client to testify Tuesday. Vitaline’s lawyer, Charles Davison, told Justice Shannon Smallwood he and his client would decide whether or not to call evidence after hearing Marie-Anne’s testimony.