Marie-Anne Lafferty, who faces eight drug trafficking charges along with her 79-year-old mother Vitaline, testified Tuesday she had no idea she’d be picking up a huge haul of drugs worth thousands when she left Ndilo for northern Alberta in 2016.
Instead, the 58-year-old grandmother testified, she believed she was participating in a legitimate delivery for Jerrie’s Delivery Service – her daughter Katrina Stiopu’s employer. Stiopu was handed a four and a half-year prison sentence in January after being convicted of stashing drugs for convicted kingpin Todd Dube.
“(Katrina) came to me and said I had to drive,” Marie-Anne testified. She recalled Stiopu had a medical appointment that prevented her from making the trip to northern Alberta herself.
Marie-Anne said she initially refused, telling Stiopu she was too sore to drive due to a recent medical procedure that affected her driving. But Marie-Anne testified she relented, giving in after her daughter said she would miss her appointment if Marie-Anne didn’t do her the favour.
After acquiring the delivery business from associate-turned rival Norman Hache, Dube used the service to move drugs in and around Yellowknife.
On March 18, 2016, while on the way to the pickup, Marie-Anne testified she waved down a white car – a description she said Stiopu provided to her – on the highway near Enterprise. She said she pulled over, opened the back door of Vitaline’s SUV, and watched as a man placed several bags inside. They closed the door and drove off, Marie-Anne testified.
Marie-Anne was adamant – she thought the trip was legal and legitimate. It wasn’t until she witnessed Mounties hauling out several bags of drugs as she sat in the back of an RCMP vehicle on the highway, that she realized the trip wasn’t. “I was shocked,” she said.
Before seeing the drugs pulled from her mother’s SUV, Marie-Anne testified she knew nothing of her daughter’s involvement in the drug world.
She testified that while driving, she’d heard Vitaline mention something about getting $1,000 for the delivery but under cross examination from Vitaline’s lawyer, Charles Davison, she said she could have been mixing up a previous conversation.
Last week, jurors were presented with over 60 intercepted phone calls and text messages – many featuring back and forths between Dube and Stiopu. In wiretapped calls, both Marie-Anne and Vitaline were heard speaking with Dube.
Dube was sentenced to nine years in prison last October for leading a network that sold cocaine, fentanyl and other drugs.
The jury heard four calls Dube made 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 (who was never charged) was “uptown” when he called looking for him. “OK, thanks,” Dube 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 illegal drugs worth thousands of dollars, was 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.
“One hundred per cent, that’s possession for the purpose of trafficking,” said Larson, looking at a photo of two cocaine-filled bags seized by RCMP.
By themselves, the two bags were worth up to $75,000. With profit-stretching additives, that value could be doubled, Larson testified.
Crown prosectuor Duane Praught grilled Marie-Anne about her communications with Dube. She said she didn’t know a “Todd Dube,” and only knew the man on the other end as “Andy,” Stiopu’s boss at Jerrie’s Delivery.
Praught also questioned Marie-Anne about her interview with Const. Joe Miller following her roadside arrest. Asked why she told Miller “they” needed a driver for the trip to Alberta, Marie-Anne’s said she was trying to not mention her daughter, in order to protect her.
In the same interview, Marie-Anne admitted to participating in what she thought was a drug-free delivery, but also alluded to “consequences” and not wanting to be a “rat,” when faced with more prying from Miller.
Both the Crown and Marie-Anne’s defence called all their evidence by Tuesday afternoon. The trial resumes Wednesday.