Group pulled in hundreds of thousands from Astro Hill base

Crack ring's operations unprecedented in Iqaluit


A crack dealing operation broken up by police this past spring was unlike anything seen before in Iqaluit, says a member of the RCMP's drug section.

"They were building themselves a market with the amount of crack cocaine that they had," said Cst. James Morrison. "Since they've been taken down there's still cocaine periodically in town, but nothing like there was at the time that these folks were in operation."

In March, two Edmonton men were arrested in Iqaluit and charged with possessing nearly two kilograms of crack for the purpose of trafficking. An Edmonton woman was arrested in Yellowknife trying to smuggle $240,000 in drug profits back to Edmonton.

Jacob Friskie pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in September and was sentenced to three years in prison. Alicia Belcher pleaded guilty to possession of the proceeds of crime, the $240,000, and was sentenced Dec. 3 to one year in jail.

A third man, Darrean Wesley Hall, also faces drug trafficking charges in connection with the operation, but hasn't been seen since he was released on $20,000 bail and returned to the Edmonton area.

He has not been convicted in connection with the Iqaluit operation.

But the crack-dealing venture appears to have ties to a wider Edmonton-based operation. During sentencing, both Friskie and Hall were described as high-school dropouts who fell in with a fast crowd who promised wealth if they took part in the scheme.

Friskie was paid $2,500 for his participation, while Belcher was paid $1,000 to ferry the cash back to Edmonton.

Two men, including Friskie, arrived in Iqaluit from Edmonton in February, 2008, to take over a turnkey drug ring that was already in operation.

The ring operated out of three apartments in the Astro Hill complex, court documents say. The drug dealers lived in an apartment in the six-storey and took orders for crack with a cell phone.

They used separate apartments in the eight-storey to stash the drugs and the cash. Friskie also had a master key for the eight-storey, which gave him access to every apartment in the building and put "the security of all those residents at risk," said Crown lawyer Marion Bryant during the September sentencing hearing.

It's still unclear how Friskie managed to get possession of a master key for that building. Calls to Nunastar, which owns the Astro Hill complex, weren't returned.

But court documents also show that Friskie was under surveillance by both building security and police for the entire time he was in Iqaluit.

Friskie was arrested on March 7, leaving a third-floor apartment with 30 bags of crack that each contained 0.8 of a gram.

When police searched that apartment they found $7,500 in cash. The apartment had also been used to store the $240,000 that Belcher had been caught with in Yellowknife.

In a fifth-floor apartment, police found 1,722 grams of crack cocaine worth $372,000 wrapped in foil inside a cardboard box and hidden in the bathroom vanity mirror.

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