Pubdate: Wed, 25 Mar 2009
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Former Labourer, Who Started Harvesting Marijuana Because He Couldn't 
Work, Gets 10 Months In Jail

They took away his home in the morning and put him in jail in the afternoon.

Ontario Court Justice Kathleen Caldwell said because of the 
seriousness of his crime she had no choice but to sentence ailing 
61-year-old Tam Ngoc Tran to 10 months in jail for running a 
marijuana grow operation in the modest semi-detached house that she 
also ordered forfeited at the request of the Crown.

Federal prosecutor David Rowcliffe said he believes it is the first 
time someone has involuntarily lost a residence in Toronto under the 
federal Integrated Proceeds of Crime Unit.

Tran was convicted of production and trafficking marijuana following 
a trial last fall after testifying he had turned to growing pot after 
developing heart problems that prevented him from working steadily as 
a general labourer. He also told court he did not want to go on 
welfare and took the risk because he could not provide for his children.

Yesterday, Caldwell allowed his eldest daughter, Van Tran, 32, to 
explain to the court why her family should keep the home where she 
and her two younger siblings grew up. Her parents, she said, came to 
Canada from Vietnam in 1990 and her father was "desperate" when he 
succumbed to the influence of bad people.

"My dad ... knows what a bad decision he made," she said tearfully. 
The family has gone through "torture" during the last two years while 
this has been before the courts, she testified.

Caldwell said she had "a great deal of difficulty with Mr. Tran's 
credibility" and didn't find "pride" to be a mitigating factor when 
considering punishment.

Tran's ex-wife, Lien Thi Pham, is also on the house's legal title. 
She could still bring an application in court to keep 96 Driftwood 
Ave., appraised in 2007 at $287,000. She was acquitted of 
marijuana-production charges and, despite their estrangement, has 
been living in the house with her ex-husband and the couple's two 
other adult children. There is about $89,000 left on the mortgage.

Tran had no financial stake in the house purchased by Pham in 1997 
for $194,000 with money from her registered retirement savings plan.

She has also been paying the mortgage while working overnight shifts, 
Van Tran testified.

Defence lawyer Peter Zaduk had argued his client deserved only a 
conditional sentence, particularly in light of the forfeiture order.

He said the justice system has treated Tran with "brutality."

"He's old and sick and unemployable and now he's going to be homeless."

Rowcliffe said the public prosecution service believes drug dealers 
should "lose not only the profits but the tools of the trade." The 
public can expect more forfeitures in the future, Rowcliffe said.

"Growers beware. Cocaine dealers beware. Money launderers beware."

The evidence before the court was that Tran was on his third "try" 
growing pot after two "relatively unsuccessful" harvests. Police 
seized some 490 plants when they raided the house.

Tran, who had no criminal record, was led out of the Old City Hall 
courtroom in handcuffs.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom