Nobody from the Mad Cowz turned up in court to show support for Christopher Bohemier as he was sent to prison for slinging crack on the street gang’s behalf.
The harsh reality of becoming one of a gang’s "throwaways" was reinforced several times to the 20-year-old on Monday after he admitted to several counts of street-level drug trafficking and received a 30-month prison sentence.
"They use him, they use other people like him," defence lawyer Melina Chohan said of the common tactic employed by gang leaders to find younger people to commit crimes for the benefit of the organization — only to abandon them when they get caught and convicted.
"In the end, he’s the one going to the prisoner’s dock. He’s the one going to the pen," federal prosecutor Raegan Rankin said. "That’s your brotherhood. That’s what the gang does for you," Rankin added. "None of them are stepping up to say, ‘it’s not his fault.’ "
Bohemier was one of 10 suspects arrested in Project Recall, a months-long Winnipeg police undercover investigation into the drug-dealing activities of the Mad Cowz in the West End and downtown areas. He admitted selling undercover officers rocks of crack cocaine on three separate occasions between late March and April 7.
Street-crimes unit officers targeted the gang earlier this year by obtaining nine "dial a dealer" drug-line numbers used by them earlier this year and then working confidential informants to paint a picture of the gang’s operations. Police learned the Mad Cowz had developed several distinct drug cells in an effort to boost sales.
Leaders purchased large amounts of the drug and supplied lower-ranking members and associates with amounts to be sold one-on-one to customers on the street. It’s a convenient method of insulating "middle" dealers and gang bosses from getting caught, Judge Brent Stewart was told Monday.
Police then set up controlled drug buys at various locations in the West End to identify street-level dealers and ultimately arrest them. While the overall amount of drug purchases made by police only added up to $2,000, police have said the project put a major dent in the gang’s drug operations.
Just after Bohemier was sentenced, one of five youths nabbed in the probe also pleaded guilty to trafficking and received two years of supervised probation for his role. Rankin noted how the punishment in the adult system for the same offence nets jail time, and the youth was getting a major break by virtue of his age and lack of record.
"The gang is not here — they’re not going to be here to support him," said Stewart. "This is the only chance that he’ll be getting."