A Yellowknife woman who sold fentanyl and cocaine as a “trusted” member of Norman Hache’s expansive drug enterprise will learn her fate next month following a court appearance earlier this week.
Thirty-nine-year-old Bonita Bohnet, who pleaded guilty to trafficking fentanyl and conspiring to traffic cocaine in October, appeared before Justice Karan Shaner in NWT Supreme Court, Tuesday.
Bohnet was arrested and charged in April 2016 after a sweeping RCMP probe into high-level drug trafficking in Yellowknife – dubbed Project Green Manalishi – uncovered her involvement in the trafficking of controlled substances in the city and throughout the territory.
In February of 2016, the Mounties’ federal investigation arm began monitoring the communications of Bohnet and several others, intercepting phone calls and text messages that suggested she was closely connected to the sale of drugs brought into territory by Hache.
Through an agreed statement of facts read by Crown prosecutor Duane Praught, the court heard Bohnet picked up a street-level dealer on March 10, 2016 and supplied him with 12 fentanyl pills.
Between Feb. 24 and April 13, 2016, Bohnet conspired with Hache and several others to traffic cocaine in Yellowknife and throughout the territory. Acting under the direction of Hache, Bohnet – along with Devon Herback – assumed the role of a primary operator of several dial-a-dope phones in the city.
Herback, who doubled as both a street-level dealer and transporter of cocaine to neighboring communities, was handed a 36-month sentence in February.
In audio recordings of intercepted phone calls played in court on Tuesday, Bohnet could be heard arranging and facilitating the sale of cocaine and crack cocaine to both buyers and dealers in Yellowknife. In an exchange with Herback, she was heard lamenting about a “slow” day of sales. In another recording from April 2016, Bohnet calls an individual while in Mexico and is told she would be coming back to a “big stack” of profits.
Bohnet’s involvement in the Hache-led drug ring – with who she eventually sold eight to nine ounces of cocaine a day – came to an abrupt end on April 14, 2016 when police moved in on the network, making several arrests and executing multiple search warrants.
Bohnet and another former accused, Michael Lapierre, were arrested while driving from Hache’s driveway. A search of the vehicle driven by Bohnet turned up dozens of baggies filled with drugs, including 14 grams of cocaine located in a gum package. Cash and a cellphone – which had been broken in half – were also seized.
Charges against Lapierre were dropped in September.
A search of Hache’s residence resulted in the seizure of cocaine , cash and two rifles. Hache was sentenced to five years in prison in August.
Cocaine along with 36 fentanyl pills and four cellphones were located at Bohnet’s home.
In court on Tuesday,the Crown prosecutor and Bohnet’s lawyer, Peter Harte, presented two starkly different portraits of her involvement in drug trafficking.
Praught said the numerous incriminating phone calls and texts gathered by law enforcement reveal Bohnet was a “middle-tier” player who had a close and trusting relationship with network kingpin Hache.
Praught said Bohnet played a significant role in the organization – “enthusiastically” co-ordinating and planning the sale and storage of drugs while overseeing dealers working beneath her.
“This is not someone on the fringe. She knows Hache’s suppliers. She’s passing along messages. She’s privy to intimate information with respect to the organization,” said Praught, adding Bohnet had “sway” and influence within the drug ring.
Harte submitted Bohnet’s undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, coupled with a need to support her own drug habit, resulted in her getting caught up in the drug trade. Harte said Bohnet’s involvement also stemmed from a compulsion to help her friend Hache.
Harte said Bohnet’s conduct and criminal record – which includes prior drug convictions – was understandable given her medical condition that was left untreated.
“There was more than greed involved here,” said Harte.
But Praught, calling Bohnet a “responsible” drug dealer who made sure dial-a-dope shifts were covered, said she was mainly motivated by financial gain.
“She knew what she was doing and she was making a lot of money doing it,” he said.
Praught called for Shaner to hand down a sentence of five years.
Harte, urging Shaner to consider Bohnet’s status as a Metis woman and the disproportionate number of incarcerated Indigenous offenders, asked for four years.
Bohnet, who was released with conditions in 2016, is due back in court on April 6 for a sentencing decision.