'You won't find drugs, you will find money,' woman told police

Judges order hard time for crack dealer, courier


An Edmonton woman arrested in March carrying nearly $240,000 in drug profits from Iqaluit will spend a year in jail.

Alicia Belcher, 22, was arrested after arriving in Yellowknife on a flight from Iqaluit. The money came from a crack cocaine operation that was run out of two apartments in the eight-storey apartment complex.

She pleaded guilty to possession of the proceeds of crime and was sentenced in an Iqaluit courtroom last week.

"You made a very serious mistake in getting involved with a sophisticated drug organization based in Edmonton for your first offence," Justice Earl Johnson told Belcher in an oral judgment delivered Dec. 3. "Those organizations must understand the cost of exploiting the aboriginal people of Nunavut."

Belcher had no prior criminal record and was paid $1,000 for attempting to smuggle $239,000 in drug profits.

But Johnson noted this is the first sentence of its kind in Nunavut, and agreed with Crown arguments that the court needed to send a message of deterrence.

Johnson acknowledged that Belcher completed a high-school equivalency diploma and started a hair-styling program since her arrest. Before her arrest, he noted Belcher moved away from her family at 17 and became mired in debt, working minimum-wage jobs to get by.

"In 2006-2007, she got involved with a crowd of fast people who had lots of money as well as nice cars and houses," Johnson said. "They took advantage of an opportunity to use her as a mule for their drug business."

Belcher was arrested March 7 after she got off a plane in Yellowknife, en route to Edmonton. Police had watched her leave an apartment in the eight-storey high-rise in Iqaluit that morning, and phoned police in Yellowknife, who asked to search her bags.

"You won't find drugs, you will find money," she told officers from the RCMP's drug squad in Yellowknife.

The next day, March 8, police in Iqaluit raided two apartments in the eight-story and arrested Jacob Alan Friskie and Darrean Wesley Hall, both of Edmonton. During the raid, police seized 1.8 kilograms of crack cocaine wrapped in baggies and $8,300 in cash.

Friskie pleaded guilty this past September to charges of drug trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Hall, who was released on $20,000 bail to Edmonton this past May, failed to show up for subsequent court dates and is now wanted by police on a Canada-wide warrant.

In sentencing Friskie, Justice Rene Foisy said crack dealing is an especially heinous crime in Nunavut, because addicts are spending large amounts of money on drugs that should pay for expensive necessities of life.

"This court unfortunately deals too often with… white people from outside that come up here dealing drugs and cause absolute havoc… with the Inuit and other people who live here," Foisy said, according to a court transcript of the Sept. 22 hearing.

"Basically what you are dealing with is poison. [Crack is] extremely addictive and people such as yourselves, as far as I'm concerned, are parasites because you feed off the weaknesses of others for your own profit."

Cst. James Morrison of the RCMP's Nunavut Drug Section said police have seen fewer property crimes and less fraud since the breakup of the Iqaluit crack ring.

The dealers were selling crack for $200 for a 0.8-gram dose, which is "at most an evening's use," Morrison said. Addicts were stealing possessions and in some cases from their employers, to fund their habits, he said.

Al Hayward, an Iqaluit city councillor who has in the past criticized the RCMP's response to drug use in Iqaluit, said he's pleased the Mounties took action on drug dealers.

"It's too bad that the criminal justice system isn't more hard on them," he said.

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