Iqaluit taxi driver gets jail time and $10,000 fine for bootlegging liquor

Lawyers say case exemplifies Nunavut’s ‘broken’ alcohol permitting system

In Iqaluit court on Thursday, Crown lawyer Greg Lyndon asked judge Susan Charlesworth for an adjournment of several weeks in order to secure an expert to testify on Hodgson’s use of steroids. The application was denied. (File photo)

By Akira Halmai-Cooper

An Iqaluit man has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $10,000 for running a bootlegging business out of his taxi.

Justice Bonnie Tulloch gave her written sentence in a document dated March 16.

In June 2020, Gabriel Martinez was charged with unlawful sale of liquor and selling liquor to a person under 19 after RCMP received a tip from staff at Nunavut’s alcohol permit system that he had purchased a large amount of liquor.

He pleaded guilty to these charges on March 5 in the Nunavut Court of Justice.

According to the sentence, the 29-year-old purchased 245 60-ounce bottles of alcohol between April 1 and June 15, 2020.

Police conducted surveillance of Martinez on June 23, where they watched him sell a bottle of liquor to a passenger in his taxi.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

“The police immediately approached the accused’s male passenger, who was in possession of a sixty-ounce bottle of vodka which he admitted had been purchased for $180.00 from Mr. Martinez,” states the sentencing document.

“This person was only 17 years old.”

After their arrest, police confiscated $5,270 and 10 bottles of liquor.

Tulloch noted that both the Crown and defence lawyers said this case shows Nunavut’s permitting system for alcohol sales is “broken.”

Under the system, any adult is allowed to import as much alcohol as they want. In Martinez’s case, he was still allowed to purchase and import alcohol even after his account was flagged for suspicious activity.

Tulloch said she, as well as the Crown and defence, all agreed a 30-day jail sentence was an appropriate punishment, but the lawyers disagreed on how much Martinez should be fined.

Baffin Business Development Corporation Annual General Meeting

The Crown wanted to impose the maximum fine of $25,000, but defence argued that would be devastating to Martinez, who is a recent immigrant from Cuba.

Tulloch said Martinez has held steady jobs since arriving in Iqaluit and regularly sends a portion of his earnings home to his family.

He has no criminal record, and quickly found new employment after being fired from his job driving taxi in the wake of his arrest.

Tulloch said the amount of liquor he had was an aggravating factor, as well as the nature of his crime.

“Bootlegging is a serious matter that causes a lot of suffering on many fronts in this territory,” stated Tulloch in her sentence.

“As I have already indicated, the elevated cost takes much needed money away from families, particularly in cases where one or more members of the family cannot live without it.”

Tulloch landed on a $10,000 fine and allowed the $5,270 seized by the police to be applied to that total. Martinez is left with a balance of $4,730.

Martinez took the opportunity to apologize before his sentence was handed down.

“I feel really, really ashamed to be in the news and the court right now,” he said.

“I really regret what I did and am really, really sorry.”

Martinez has 18 months to pay the fine.

Tulloch ended her sentence by accepting the apology.

“I sincerely hope that you have learned your lesson, but more importantly that you have a much better understanding of how wrong your actions were,” she said. “I accept your remorse and hope that I never see you in court again.”

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Double Standards on

    Meanwhile someone can kill their domestic partner and plead guilty to manslaughter and no jail time. The Nunavut Court of Justice has no consistency.

  2. Posted by Serious Concern on

    I am happy this person was arrested and convicted.

    I am very unhappy that the staff member of the Nunavut Liquor Commission reported this individual for doing nothing illegal. It is not illegal to order a significant amount of alcohol from the commission. The fact that this tip came from an employee of a government agency where the purchaser was following the proper procedures does not sit well with me. It makes one question how often a Nunavut government agency will breach your privacy.

    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong here. This is the way many investigations are started; people report what they believe to be suspicious activity. For example, people might contact the police because they’re concerned about cars at a neighbour’s house at “unusual” hours. There’s nothing illegal about cars being there but it can raise suspicions. I also don’t think that using the information gleaned or provided in this way is wrong or problematic. You’re entitled to privacy but not anonymity and I don’t believe “privacy” protects illegal activity. The Charter provides certain protections against state actions but in this case, I think everything was above board and proper.

      • Posted by Serious Concern on

        Here is the thing, the purchasing of the alcohol from the commission was not illegal. I do not believe that it is right for a government agency to release private information to another government agency if what the person was doing was completely legal. The information garnered by the reporting individual came about because they are privy to private information while working for the commission. The passing off of this information to the police (even though nothing illegal has happened) is just plan wrong. While I am happy the person was arrested and fined I believe the manner in which the information was gathered could be unconstitutional.

        • Posted by Alan Klie on

          But is that any different from the government social services provider informing the RCMP (or any police agency) that someone is improperly receiving a benefit? As I understand, this is often how such investigations begin and as far as I know, it’s completely Charter compliant. I don’t know if there are specific legislative provisions which give those agencies the ability to inform a police agency.

          • Posted by Serious Concern on

            However there was nothing inappropriate about this gentleman ordering alcohol. He followed the rules and received his product. In regards to someone receiving the wrong benefits one would have to determine if it was an error or fraud. This gentleman legally ordered alcohol , no error or fraud.

            • Posted by Evelyn Louise Thordarson on

              Yes he ordered the alcohol legally but tell me how is one man going to drink 76 -60 ouncers of alcohol himself. The person was right to drop a dime to the RCMP because he was bootlegging. The money he made from the sales will pay his fine nicely and if you think for on minute he is back on the straight and narrow forget it as he has already tasted the taste of easy money. We don’t need this kind of trafficker in Nunavut.

            • Posted by Although I do see your point on

              Although I do see your point, there would be more than one large order to flag that person and report it to the police as suspicious. When things get suspicious, you’re allowed to share information with authorities. Banks who allowed money laundering were investigated a couple years back. You remember? A whole lot of them in Montreal were getting penalized for their actions or lack there of, and were charged in affiliation to money laundering. You don’t want to be a part of that. Especially when you’re a liquor board who draws capital from the orders that are taken.

          • Posted by NU Information and Privacy Commissioner on

            Section 48(e) of Nunavut’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act says “A public body may disclose personal information … to a public body or a law enforcement agency for law enforcement purposes;…”.

            • Posted by Serious Concern on

              Very good point…….but the purchasing of the alcohol was not illegal….so the information should not have been released.

  3. Posted by Unacceptable!!! on

    One part of this decision disturbs me – why should the blood money gained by an illegal activity be allowed to go towards paying down the fine! That sends a very clear message – if you get caught just make sure you’ve sold enough to pay your potential fine!! This is unacceptable!!!

    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      I don’t think that’s a real problem. The maximum fine under the Liquor Act is $25 000.00 per incident so it could potentially run very high; the minimum is $5 000.00. In this case, the offender is still out of pocket by several thousand dollars.

  4. Posted by Really? on

    Can you get deported if you go to jail?
    You can be deported if you’re a foreign national and have completed your prison sentence for committing a crime. This is also called ‘removal for the public good’. Your family can also be deported.It is time that the federal government of canada and all other governments throughout canada should start deportation on all who break canadas laws and who are jailed.

  5. Posted by far far away on

    so he is able pay for his fine from the money he was able to make from his criminal activity, he should have been fined 25,000 for all suffering he caused and 5 years in jail

  6. Posted by Lets check these figures on

    245 sixty-oz bottles in between April 1 to June 15 (75 days) is 3.25 sixty-oz bottles per day. That is 200 ounces of vodka per day. Assuming he sold all of it (likely because he’s a taxi driver) at $180, that’s a net revenue of $13,700. He probably paid about $70 a bottle, so lets take out $3500, leaving him with a cool $10,000 profit bootlegging in 2.5 months. Now let’s look at the fine: $10,000 minus $5200 that was seized (likely dirty bootlegger money), so he only owes $4800 plus a measily 30-days in jail.

    How is this justice to the families he took advantage of? To the families of the children who he sold booze to? He basically walks away a free in Iqaluit. Horrible, horrible joke of a justice system in Canada.

  7. Posted by Disappointment on

    Truthfully this is one seller. Shipments come in all the time and bootlegging is a real problem. Wanna curb the problem of bootlegging? Then lets open full liquor stores that are regulated and do it properly. Please don’t comment that this will only add to the social problems of the communities. ITS ALREADY A PROBLEM. 245 in 75 days by 1 person is not bootlegging it’s a store. but a slap on the wrist and on to the next seller.
    Nunavut is so backwards when it comes to liquor… It’s already here, deal with it. Boohoo all you naysayers, get over yourselves and lets join the rest of the country in economics and democracy and stop hiding behind idiot “old people/elders/yellers” and politicians that want to be politically correct and not rock the boat.

  8. Posted by Somewhere over the northern lights on

    At least he wasn’t talking on his phone.

  9. Posted by Not ashamed of his actions?? on

    Is Mr.Mayor going to do something about this to protect his community? Illegal activities going on from people outside, those who saw the opportunity to bring more destruction.
    It is obvious, Mr. Martinez don’t care about the Inuit all he sees is perfect place to make money.
    He must have good connection (with other people with similar intentions. $$$) because as soon as he got fired, he found a job right away? Wow, with the criminal record? How is that possible? Inuit living in there own territory have hard time to find jobs because of their record. Maybe some got a criminal record from drinking alcohol they bought from Mr.Martinez careless sale and the profit goes out to his family. They must have had an excellent way of living for awhile. Oops, it got stopped. Giving bad name to others who desperately want to immigrate to Canada. Way to go Gabriel!

  10. Posted by Pete peters on

    He should be kicked out of our country.

  11. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    And with the public knowledge of his income, I wonder if he reports it on his tax return. CRA may be interested in this. It is taxable illegal or otherwise.

  12. Posted by George on

    The vast majority of bootlegging and resultant harm takes place, not in Iqaluit, but in all the small Nunavut communities. Yet there are seldom any convictions outside of Iqaluit.
    Would the fact that Martinez is, I assume, a “foreigner” have anything to do with that?
    It’s a proven fact that Inuit won’t “rat” on their own (except on social media) and therein lies the real problem.

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