A Yellowknife man, described by police and a prosecutor as the boss of a large, sophisticated drug ring, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and counselling to commit assault.
Norman Hache, 36, the former owner of Jerrie’s Delivery Service, reached a plea deal with Crown prosecutors last week.
Two other drug-related charges against him are expected to be either dropped or stayed.
Hache appeared at a sentencing hearing in front of Supreme Court judge Louise Charbonneau last Thursday.
Crown prosecutor Duane Praught and Hache’s lawyer Caroline Wawzonek both agreed a five-year sentence would be appropriate.
According to an agreed statement of facts, court heard Hache oversaw a drug operation that brought large quantities of powdered and crack cocaine from Calgary for distribution in the city as well as in Hay River, Fort Resolution and Fort Smith.
Hache has been in custody at the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) since his arrest in April 2016. He was caught in an RCMP drug sweep dubbed Project Green Manalishi,.
Green Manalishi is the name of a rock band and a song by rock group Fleetwood Mac that refers to money and greed. It can also refer to an item or person that steals one’s soul.
According to Praught, the project was initiated in November 2015 with the objective of dismantling and disrupting high-level drug dealing in Yellowknife and elsewhere. Much of the incriminating evidence was collected by police by monitoring phone calls and text messages.
Eight other people were taken down at the same time as Hache and a large amount of illicit drugs were seized. Hache’s phone calls were intercepted between February and April 2016, Praught told the court.
“Powdered and crack cocaine, fentanyl, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), cash, scales, drug-score sheets and firearms were among the items seized in five raids around the city,” he said.
Praught told the court that Hache was the head of a network that would organize the transportation of the drugs from Calgary and supply it to lower level dealers. Praught added the drug ring moved as much as eight to nine ounces of cocaine a day, selling it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using a dial-a-dope operation. He added one of the men arrested worked for an airline and is alleged to have used his job to smuggle cocaine into smaller NWT communities.
Praught also played three telephone calls intercepted by a police phone tap in which Hache can be heard in a profanity-laced tirade, telling associates to punch and stomp a man that he said stole his cellphone and owed him money for drugs.
“Smash the (f—) out of him and make him pay up,” Hache can be head saying over the phone.
Praught pointed out Hache has 15 prior criminal convictions, including ones for trafficking in marijuana dating back to the late 1990s.
Court heard from Wawzonek that Hache slept in stairwells for a time as a teenager and part of the reason he turned to trafficking drugs was so he never found himself in that type of situation again.
The defense lawyer said Hache has also struggled with drug and alcohol addictions.
Wawzonek provided the court with five letters of support for Hache, including ones from employees at NSCC where he has undergone counselling and attended Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He also served president of the inmate advisory committee and worked in the NSCC kitchen while in custody.
“Before his arrest, his behaviour had became more erratic due to debt and desperation,” Wawzonek told the court. “He has taken positive steps to better himself while in custody.”
She also noted Hache became a father while in jail and said he is determined to turn his life around for the sake of his baby son. She said Hache felt in some ways that a weight was lifted off his shoulders by the arrest.
Hache, wearing a blue dress shirt and jeans, apologized for his actions. He also gave a letter to the judge which she did not read aloud in court.
One of the letters of support came from Hache’s mother, Arlene Hache, who has received the Order of Canada. She was in court for the hearing.
Hache has spent 491 days in pre-trial custody, meaning he would have just over two years left to serve if the judge accepts the joint sentencing submission, and gives Hache 1.5 days credit for each day he has served in jail.
Charbonneau is to sentence Hache on Monday.