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Five-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking

A local man targeted by an RCMP drug investigation was given a five-year prison sentence Monday.

Patrick La, 26, pleaded guilty to a single count of cocaine trafficking.

La was one of 11 people round up by the RCMP earlier this year in Project Dilemma, a five-month investigation of the drug trade in Winnipeg. La is the third person among those 11 to plead guilty and be given a prison sentence.

The RCMP used a member of the Rock Machine biker gang as a paid undercover agent, setting up deals with his former biker pals and others. The agent is in the witness protection program and lives outside of Manitoba.

Federal prosecutor Sadie Bond said La was contacted twice by the agent, who sold him nine ounces of cocaine the first time and then half a kilogram of cocaine in the second deal.

There was a joint prosecution-defence recommendation on the sentencing term, based in part on La's early guilty plea.

Defence counsel Crystal Antila said La's arrest surprised his family and co-workers, adding it appears while employed as a mobile phone store manager he was leading a secret double life as a cocaine dealer.

La was born and raised in Winnipeg but his family is originally from Vietnam.

La made an apology to the court, explaining his drug dealing as simply doing a favour for the Rock Machine biker, who was a longtime friend.

Justice Chris Martin said he didn't believe La's apology was sincere, adding it appeared to him La was trying to "outsmart the system."

Martin said that based on the amount of cocaine he sold, La must have been a well established dealer, describing him as a gangster who shamed his family.

"You were targeted by police because you were on their radar screen," Martin said, adding he believed La was playing down his deep involvement with the local drug scene. "I don’t see a lot of remorse."

In April, two other men rounded up by the RCMP in Project Dilemma were given lengthy sentences after pleading guilty.

John Adam Curwin, 31, a member of the Rock Machine, was given a 9 1/2-year sentence on April 3 for: trafficking firearms, trafficking the drug benzylpiperazine (BZP), and possession of explosives.

Christopher Lee Camara, 32, was given a 5-year sentence April 24 for trafficking cocaine, in the Project Dilemma investigation, and another year for unrelated weapons offences from 2009, for a total of six years.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 B2

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Updated on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 9:29 AM CDT: updates with quotes from judge, more info, adds fact box

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