A key player in a sophisticated Yellowknife-based drug trafficking network was sentenced to 30 months on Wednesday after evading authorities for more than two years.
Twenty-four-year-old Luqman Hussein, who pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking, was one of over a dozen people arrested as part of Project Green Manalishi, a large-scale investigation into drug trafficking in the territory and its capital launched by RCMP in November 2015.
The probe targeted two high-level drug operations, controlled by a handful of people including Todd Dube and Norman Hache, both of whom received hefty prison sentences for their role in the enterprises.
Between February and April 2016, Hussein was one of four primary operators of a dial-a-dope phone, a line – open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week – that connected drug users in the city to crack cocaine.
Hussein, supplied by upper-echelon drug traffickers in town, personally sold up to two ounces of crack cocaine per week, the court heard Wednesday.
He raked in thousands of dollars in weekly profits by divvying up each ounce – bought or fronted to him for $2,300 – into 50 to 55 “street grams,” selling 0.5 grams of crack for up to $100 a piece.
“It was more or less a full time job for Mr. Hussein,” said prosecutor Duane Praught.
Praught said Hussein and his fellow dial-a-dope phone operators, “worked in shifts, working in tandem,” like a well-oiled machine. The operation “ran like a business,” he said.
Praught, along with Hussein’s lawyer Peter Harte, submitted a joint-sentencing recommendation of 30 months custody minus time spent in remand.
NWT Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau accepted the joint recommendation.
The plug was pulled on Hussein’s lucrative dial-a-dope operation in April 2016 when RCMP mounted a series of raids and arrests.
Hussein was released on a recognizance in July of that year. On Aug. 30, 2016, after he failed to appear in court or instruct a lawyer to do so on his behalf, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
He was on the run for more than two years.
Then in December of last year, Hussein turned himself into Yellowknife RCMP, making it known immediately he wished to plead guilty to his lone trafficking charge.
Hussein is the last perpetrator to be sentenced as a result of Project Green Manalishi, marking an end the prosecution of those caught in the investigation, which has snaked through the courts for years.
Harte said his client could have chosen to remain a wanted man, but instead turned himself in and took responsibility for his crimes.
Hussein turned to a life of crime after running into trouble in Ontario, where he was once an engineering student in Toronto, said Harte.
He figured his prospects were bleak and realized he could make a living on the street, which eventually led him to Yellowknife, he continued.
Harte said Hussein had a “problematic” relationship with his father, whom he met for the first time when he was 12.
Hussein was conceived in a refugee camp in Kenya, the court heard.
The lucrative drug market in the North, said Justice Charbonneau, attracts would-be dealers out for “easy money,” in the territory. In reality, she said, those who get caught pay a high price.
The presence of drugs in Northern communities, said Charbonneau, reciting an oft-repeated admonishment, causes “immense harm,” which trickles down to property crime, child neglect and even death – accidental or otherwise.
Further involvement in the drug trade for Hussein, she warned, would likely lead to a “very significant” prison sentence.
Hussein was ordered to submit a sample of his DNA. He’s also banned from possessing firearms for 10 years after his release.
With time spent in remand custody, Hussein has 21 months left to serve.
Charbonneau said she’s hopeful the message that drug trafficking in the North will lead significant sentences will get through to would-be traffickers eventually, despite the continued prevalence of migrating traffickers bent on making a buck North of 60.
While Wednesday marked the end of the Crown’s work following Project Green Manalishi, court proceedings for those charged in 2018’s Project Gloomiest - another RCMP probe into cocaine trafficking in Yellowknife - is just getting started.