Pubdate: Wed, 08 Dec 2004
Source: Barrie Advance, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Roberta Avery, Special
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Calls Prison Terms a Deterrent

A judge said he wants to send a message of deterrence through the tough 
sentences he handed down last Friday to the seven men convicted in 
connection with Canada's largest marijuana grow operation at the former 
Molson brewery.

Noting that they were, "not the controlling minds" behind the vast 
marijuana operation, Justice James Crawford passed sentences ranging from 
two years of house arrest to five years in prison for the men who all 
pleaded guilty last week to production and possession of marijuana for the 
purpose of trafficking.

Crawford said the sentences sent "the appropriate message to deter someone 
of similar mind" from getting involved in large-scale marijuana production, 
which was busted Jan. 10 at the landmark building on Highway 400.

Family members of the seven men sat in court quietly crying as the judge 
said he also hoped the sentences would encourage the family and friends of 
the seven men in the courtroom "to intervene and prevent" anyone else they 
know from getting involved in marijuana grow operations. In his submissions 
on sentencing, defence lawyer Randall Barrs told the court that many people 
consider the seven men who were the "crop tenders" at the operation, which 
police estimate produced up to $60-million worth of marijuana a year, 
"local heroes."

But Crawford said that there is no heroism involved in being sent to jail.

The sentences ranged from two years less a day for Scott Dillon, 24, of 
Toronto, three years, six months in prison for Craig Walker, 24, of Niagara 
Falls, Ont., four years each for Thomas Gates, 33, of Corunna, Ont. And for 
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, was considered to be the prime suspect 
among those arrested because he lived on site and had set up a dummy 
company as a front for the grow operation.

But he was the one to walk away from court yesterday while the other six 
were led away in handcuffs. His sentence was two years of house arrest 
because of his severe health problems, said Crawford.

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

Unless new evidence comes to light, the sentencing of the seven men could 
be the final chapter of the case, which began with a tip to police of a 
drug deal going down at the former brewery late on Jan. 9.

The grow operation was so well concealed that it took police nearly an hour 
to find it once they were inside the building, said OPP Det. Sgt. Rick 
Barnum in an interview after the sentencing.

Police had now idea of enormity of the operation and once they had 
discovered it, it was too late to step back, said Barnum.

"I would have loved to have been able to step back and watch the comings 
and goings for six months," said Barnum.

Superintendent Jim Miller agreed.

"'We didn't know what we had, we didn't appreciate the magnitude of it 
until we got in there," said Miller in an interview after the sentencing.

Police have a good idea who was the brains behind the operation, but have 
not been able to find the evidence that would stand up in court to link 
them, said Miller.

"They had distanced themselves very well from the operation," said Miller.

Police believe that a Canadian criminal organization with "links to the 
United States" was behind it, said Miller.

Federal Crown attorney Karen Jokinen said in an interview that she too 
hopes that the severity of the sentence sends a message to criminals that 
the courts are not going "to stand by while persons make a business, or 
make a living out of growing marijuana."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager