A 26-year-old man was sentenced Monday to one year in jail on charges of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
Andrew Rheaume was charged in 2018, along with 15 others, as part of a year-long RCMP cocaine trafficking and money laundering investigation dubbed Project Gloomiest.
The investigation was launched after police were alerted to “suspicious movements of money,” from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada’s financial intelligence agency.
When the Mounties searched the Yellowknife residence on Finlayson drive, they recovered a total of 1,425 grams of cocaine.
In Rheaume’s room, RCMP found 11.4 grams of cocaine, a digital scale, plastic bags, and three cellphones that contained evidence of drug trafficking, Crown Prosecutor Duane Praught told the NWT Supreme Court.
The starting point for sentencing for commercial trafficking, which these charges fall under, is three years, which can be adjusted based on the circumstances.
In his submission, Praught recommended a sentence of 18 months in custody.
He said the “forethought” required to commit these crimes increases Rheaume’s moral culpability as it’s “not something that you just fall into.”
He told the court that the NWT’s population is susceptible to substance abuse and the people who “prey” on their vulnerabilities require proper denunciation.
Defence lawyer Baljinder Rattan proposed 12 to 14 months of custody.
In describing Rheaume’s background, Rattan told the court that the offender holds a high school diploma and that he worked in construction until his father suffered a stroke in 2017, at which point Rheaume became his full-time caretaker.
“I accept full, 100-per-cent responsibility for my actions” Rheaume told the court.
He said he’s addicted to alcohol but he wants to take any counselling programs available in custody. He also said that upon release, he plans to move to Quebec to be with his mother.
“When I get released, I just want to leave Yellowknife and start from scratch,” he said.
Rheaume will be on probation for six months following his time served in jail.
Justice Karan Shaner listed Rheaume’s young age, his guilty plea, and his Indigenous background as mitigating factors that require restraint in sentencing.
She acknowledged, however, that proper sentencing is crucial to maintaining a peaceful and just society, as well as acknowledging harm to the victims.
“I don’t know how you got mixed up in this,” Shaner said to Rheaume. “You seem to have gotten on the wrong path… I hope you pursue your rehabilitation and in making a fresh start, you really do make a fresh start.”
The sentencing hearing was set originally for last Tuesday Sept. 15, and was rescheduled for Monday when Rheaume didn’t turn up in court.
He apologized at Monday’s sentencing and told the court that he had slept in.