Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Accused's allegations similar to brother's

Drug-smuggling charges follow sibling's weapons conviction

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A Winnipeg man is facing charges for his alleged role in a massive cross-border drug-trafficking ring -- just a few years after his younger brother got out of jail for participating in an international weapons-smuggling scam.

It's a strange tale involving one family and two entirely separate criminal investigations that have similar characteristics.

Christopher Scher, 33, was arrested in Calgary earlier this year and remains before the courts. None of the allegations has been proven and he is presumed innocent.

Scher and two Alberta men are accused of running more than $4.5 million worth of cocaine from Nevada. Police found the drugs stashed inside a truck during a traffic stop in the U.S., which triggered a lengthy probe on both sides of the border.

They are charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to traffic cocaine, possession, trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime. Police allege the trio was involved in frequently bringing drugs from the southern U.S. into Canada.

Scher's younger brother, Thomas, was arrested in 2009 in North Dakota. The Winnipeg resident was attending Minot State University on a football scholarship when he was recruited by others to take part in an illegal enterprise.

Thomas Scher, now 25, was ultimately sentenced to one year in a U.S. jail after pleading guilty to trading guns he legally purchased in the U.S. in exchange for ecstasy, which was then sold on campus. The man who received the guns, Gokhan Ozturk, was given a 57-month sentence for selling the 22 semi-automatic handguns on the black market in Winnipeg.

Ozturk told court the idea was launched in a Winnipeg bar in late 2007. Ozturk met two U.S. college students -- Thomas Scher and Curtis Rolle -- who were visiting for the weekend. Scher and Rolle agreed to buy a variety of firearms from several outlets in the Minot area, then smuggle them into Canada. They would meet Ozturk in Winnipeg and be paid either $1,000 cash per weapon or with ecstasy tablets.

Scher and Rolle admitted they sold 1,800 doses of the illegal drug to people in North Dakota, then pocketed the profits. After their arrest in December 2008, the pair agreed to assist police.

Scher began speaking with Ozturk in conversations investigators recorded. A meeting was set up for January 2009 in a parking lot in Minot. Ozturk drove to North Dakota believing he was going to meet a potential new client, as arranged by Scher. It was an undercover police officer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2014 0

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