Pubdate: Sat, 04 Dec 2004
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star
Author: Roberta Avery and Betsy Powell, Toronto Star
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


'Not The Controlling Minds,' Judge Says

Few Convictions From Raid at Former Brewery

BARRIE--In the end, the largest marijuana bust in Canadian history yielded 
thousands of plants, took down a massive grow operation, led to many 
investigative leads, but resulted in few convictions.

Seven men who pleaded guilty to production and possession of marijuana for 
the purpose of trafficking received sentences yesterday ranging from two 
years of house arrest to five years in prison.

Police described them as minor players and unless new evidence comes to 
light, they will likely be the only ones to serve time for the 
sophisticated marijuana factory discovered at the former Molson brewery.

More than 10 months ago, after the raid took place, police said only a 
well-financed criminal organization could have supported and overseen such 
an operation. They were confident more charges would be forthcoming. They 
spent months gathering evidence and dismantling equipment found in the 
120,000-square-foot facility.

Police say they know who the individuals are who may have raked in as much 
as $120 million during the factory's two-year production run, but can't lay 
any charges.

"We know who's behind it," Ontario Provincial Police Detective 
Superintendent Jim Miller, the director of the force's drug enforcement 
unit, told the Toronto Star recently. "But we've got to have evidence to 
prove it in court and we just don't have it."

In hindsight, police admit they could have taken a different approach to 
the investigation.

"I would have loved to have been able to step back and watch the comings 
and goings for six months," said OPP Det. Sgt. Rick Barnum in an interview 
after the sentencing. They maintain that at the time, they had no other 
choice but to bust the operation.

Barnum said the grow operation was so well concealed that it took them 
nearly an hour to find it once they were inside the building.

The marijuana factory included living quarters for 27 workers that featured 
kitchen, laundry, and games rooms. More than 20 of the brewery's giant beer 
vats had been turned into hothouses for more than 20,000 plants, complete 
with high-tech irrigation and lighting systems.

Yesterday, noting that the seven men were "not the controlling minds" 
behind the operation, Justice James Crawford said the sentences sent "the 
appropriate message to deter someone of similar mind from" getting involved 
in large-scale marijuana production.

The sentences were: two years less a day for Scott Dillon, 24, of Toronto; 
three years, six months in prison for Craig Walker, 24, of Niagara Falls; 
four years each for Thomas Gates, 33, of Corunna and Rayne Sauve, 36, of 
St. Catharines; and five years each for Robert Bleich, 29, of Stayner, and 
Scott Walker, 34, of St. Catharines.

Michael DiCicco, 61, of Toronto, who lived on the site and had set up a 
dummy company as a front for the grow operation, was sentenced to two years 
of house arrest because of his severe health problems, Crawford said.

"I am satisfied that a true jail term may well prove fatal for him."
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