Monday, May 31, 2010
Man pleads guilty in running massive cocaine operation
A Winnipeg man has pleaded guilty to running one of the largest cocaine operations ever shut down by city police.
Thomaz Martin Nataluk, 25, admitted responsibilty Monday just as his Queen’s Bench trial was set to begin. He will be sentenced later this fall under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. Sources say the proposed penalty will be in the range of eight years.
Nataluk was arrested in June 2007 after investigators seized 15 kilograms of cocaine -- worth up to $1.8 million on the street -- along with $525,000 in cash during a raid of a downtown apartment block. Officers also found 14 firearms, including two fully automatic sub-machine guns, inside three suites on Donald Street.
Nataluk spent six months in custody before he was released on bail. His lawyer, Paul Gill, initially accused police of conducting an illegal search and claimed he would challenge the validity of the case at trial.
Police first stopped Nataluk in traffic on Broadway and found two kilograms of cocaine inside the vehicle, court was told. They were then led to the nearby apartment but went in without obtaining a warrant. An additional 13 kilograms of cocaine was found inside, with more than $500,000 cash lying on a table.
Police also found ingredients to bake brick after brick of crack cocaine, with several Pyrex cooking pans of freshly made crack cocaine and one batch being mixed before putting it in the oven. As the search continued in the other suites, officers seized a black Ralph Lauren duffel bag stuffed with two Mac 11 machine-guns and 12 handguns, plus ammunition.
Police said the apartment was the centre for a major crack cocaine production and distribution centre and they had reason to act immediately. The Crown dropped proceed of crime charges Monday which had been previously laid against Nataluk’s 26-year-old girlfriend, who was the registered tenant of the apartment suite.
I agree with the defence lawyer that the search was definitely illegal, as the police needed a search warrant. Even those this man pleaded guilty, I believe that 8 years is far too harsh. I believe that only the most dangerous criminals should be sentenced to prison, not non-violent, drug, or property offenders. This man will likely become negatively influenced by the prison environment and subculture as gangs and drugs and pro-criminal attitudes/behaviours are prevalent. He will likely become further involved and entrenched in the criminal lifestyle. If this man has been successful on bail and has obeyed conditions, I would see no reason to further imprison him. If this were the case, I would sentence this man to a 2 year conditional sentence.