BIGGEST SNOW JOB
Former city nightclub owner and used-car salesman Barry Werkman was handed a 15-year prison term yesterday in the biggest cocaine case in Alberta's history. The 38-year-old father of two young children cried as he was led away by court constables after the judge talked about the tragedy of being separated from his family.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Donna Read spoke about the dangers of "evil"
cocaine to all of society and the large amount of profits involved for drug dealers. "They reap their profits at a huge cost to the rest of society,"
The judge said Werkman was part of a commercial operation involving "very significant" amounts of drugs, but disagreed that he was near the top of the hierarchy.
"He is not the kingpin, he answers to others," said Read, referring to evidence that there were other people above Werkman, including one man known as the Jackal.
"He is, as the Japanese would call him, a salaryman," said Read, adding he was at least one rung above a courier in the case who got the equivalent of a 12-year sentence.
Read convicted Werkman last Friday of importing cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and export marijuana.
The Sherwood Park man was arrested after a city man working for him was busted in January 2004 at the Alberta-Montana border crossing with a truck pulling a trailer containing 69 kilograms of cocaine valued at $9 million.
With the evidence accepted in the conspiracy charge, the total amount of cocaine involved in the U.S.-Canada smuggling operation comes to an Alberta record-setting 219 kg.
Court heard the conspiracy revolved around buying marijuana on Vancouver Island, smuggling it into the U.S. and selling it and then using the proceeds to buy cocaine in Los Angeles and smuggling that back into Canada.
Court also heard a legitimate business involving buying cars in the U.S.
and bringing them to Canada for resale was a cover.
Read said there was no proof the marijuana was actually imported to the U.S., however she accepted beyond a reasonable doubt there was a plan to do so. The evidence regarding the marijuana plot came from Michael Hills, a Saskatchewan man never charged, who said he was hired by Werkman to pick up the marijuana in B.C. and drive it to the U.S.
Regarding the cocaine, Read accepted the evidence of Wade Overacker, 31, who testified he was driving a truck and trailer owned by Werkman when he was busted at the Coutts, Alberta, border with 69 kg of cocaine and that it had been Werkman who hid the cocaine in the trailer. Overacker was stopped at the border on Jan. 15, 2004, and a drug-detector dog found seven garbage bags of cocaine under a false floor in the trailer.
Overacker was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to importing cocaine into Canada.