Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Blackberry drug scheme nets man a 7 year prison sentence
A British Columbia gang associate has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for a drug and weapons smuggling scheme that was done almost entirely on his Blackberry.
Dan Hawkins, 29, pleaded guilty Tuesday to his role in "Project Divide," a Manitoba-based undercover police sting operation that led to 33 arrests last December.
Crown attorney Chris Mainella told a Winnipeg courtroom how Hawkins used his wireless device - which some users jokingly call "crackberries" because of their addictive nature - to conduct his illicit deals with a secret police agent.
"It’s very sophisticated, anonymous, not traceable to an individual user and very difficult for the police to catch," Mainella said Tuesday.
Hawkins wasn’t an original target of the police project, which aimed to take down members and associates of the Hells Angels and their so-called puppet club, the Zig Zag Crew. But he entered the scene in early 2009 after police intercepted conversations which alluded to him being able to provide cocaine and weapons from the West Coast.
The agent, former Zig Zag treasurer Michael Satsatin, began to converse with Hawkins about a deal for 12 ounces of cocaine in exchange for $16,000. They first met in July 2009 to consummate the deal at the Moxie’s restaurant in Linden Woods.
"Hawkins told the agent all subsequent communications would be via Blackberry," said Mainella. Hawkins and Satsatin then exchanged 58 Blackberry messages over the following days, which were being monitored by police and culminated with the drugs being delivered to the agent outside the Rona store on Kenaston Boulevard.
Police also intercepted messages talking about a proposed deal which would see Hawkins help sell the agent two prohibited handguns. However, no firearms were ever sold because a Manitoba gang associate who was going to facilitate the exchange became sick with colon cancer, court was told.
Hawkins is the 14th accused to plead guilty to his charges. He was given an 85-month sentence less single-time credit for the seven months he has already spent in custody. He submitted a letter to Queen’s Bench Justice Marc Monnin in which he apologized for his actions.
"I was driven by selfishness and greed and took the easy way out," he said.
I would be interested in knowing more about the mitigating factors of this offender and the defence lawyer statements. I believe that 7 years is much too harsh. Prisons are the schools of crime, have negative influences, the prison subculture, gangs, drugs and pro-criminal attitudes, values and behaviours also exist. Longer prison sentences have been shown to increase the chances of re-offending. That does not increase public safety in the long term and is not in our best interests. We need to address the root causes of this man's criminal behaviour.