‘24/7 crack shack’ cook sentenced to eight years

Timothy Verbong cooked cocaine, cut it, weighed it and packaged it into crack that was sold from a “24/7 crack shack” by a criminal ring that terrorized the residents of Point Douglas.

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Timothy Verbong cooked cocaine, cut it, weighed it and packaged it into crack that was sold from a “24/7 crack shack” by a criminal ring that terrorized the residents of Point Douglas.

For his integral role in a trafficking operation that was busted in spring 2021, the 61-year-old was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Winnipeg judge Wednesday.

Verbong pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence between Oct. 13, 2020 and March 4, 2021. Other charges, including trafficking, assaulting a police officer and breaching court conditions, were stayed.

“His role was to produce, essentially, the product for the network,” Crown attorney Raegan Rankin told court.

“His (Verbong) role was to produce, essentially, the product for the network.” – Crown attorney Raegan Rankin

Provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson imposed the sentence on Verbong based on a joint recommendation by Rankin and defence lawyers Mike and Emilie Cook.

Winnipeg police investigators had ensnared Verbong, along with 25 others, in a months-long probe that involved informants, physical and video surveillance and a wiretap. “Project Matriarch” culminated in search warrants being executed and evidence seized on March 10, 2021.

Rankin said the Point Douglas community played an important role in the early stages of the investigation by feeding information to police about “crack sales happening in their neighbourhood, and about a particularly busy crack shack that was operating 24 hours a day and was flooding (the area).”

Investigators seized cocaine, crack cocaine, a loaded firearm and ammunition, jewelry, a 2016 BMW X5 and a skid steer. Provincial property forfeiture officials filed documents to seize 10 properties in Point Douglas and at least nine bank accounts.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Unit seized property, cash, jewelry, cocaine and crack cocaine along with other items during the arrest of 26 people in a months long investigation they are calling Project Matriarch.

The alleged “matriarch” of the crack ring and the police’s main target, Sandra Guiboche, is due in court Sept. 26. Provincial officials alleged in the forfeiture documents that she had been involved in Point Douglas drug sales for 25 years.

Officials have alleged Guiboche maintained the properties as rental units and that some tenants were street-level drug dealers. Rankin alleged she used her position as a landlord to exercise control over her network; her alleged street dealers, most of whom were drug users themselves, paid rent to her with the money obtained through crack sales.

Rankin laid out Verbong’s role in the organization at Wednesday’s hearing.

“His main job was to reside at 107 Lisgar Ave., which was a home owned by… Guiboche, and to pick up from the suppliers kilograms of cocaine… then convert that by cooking it, cutting it, weighing it, packaging it into the crack that was ultimately sold at 124 Lisgar Ave., which was the 24/7 crack shack.”

Rankin said Verbong maintained debt lists for his alleged boss.

During the police investigation, Rankin said, Verbong picked up or received four kilograms of powder cocaine allegedly on Guiboche’s behalf for prices ranging from $65,000 to $73,000, which he converted to crack cocaine.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“Project Matriarch” culminated in search warrants being executed and evidence seized on March 10, 2021.

Investigators were aware a drug buy was about to go down on Jan. 25, 2021. They let it proceed, Rankin said, then pulled over Verbong’s vehicle.

He tried to flee and crashed into a police car. He was arrested with a kilogram of cocaine on the passenger seat along with an empty money bag, Rankin said.

He was released while the wide-reaching investigation continued, but was later held behind bars after breaching release conditions.

During the probe, police kept watch on the crack house at 124 Lisgar Ave.

“On January the 20th (2021), in just one day, 239 people attended, and the only reason to go there is to purchase crack cocaine. That is why it was set up, that’s what it was designed for, and that’s what the people who were in there were doing,” Rankin told court.

“On January the 20th (2021), in just one day, 239 people attended, and the only reason to go there is to purchase crack cocaine.” – Crown attorney Raegan Rankin

Police witnessed an average of 167 people go to the house daily, court was told.

“That’s 167 substance users, people who are addicted to crack cocaine, attending to purchase their drug of choice in a residential neighbourhood where people are trying to raise their families or to retire,” Rankin said.

Judge Carlson noted that number when sentencing Verbong.

“We all know the devastating impact of crack cocaine, its addictive qualities — that’s a lot of lives,” she said.

Defence lawyer Mike Cook unsuccessfully sought to delay sentencing because Verbong was recently diagnosed with non-terminal cancer.

He will be incarcerated at Stony Mountain Institution, which has accredited medical services, court was told.

Cook noted Verbong had worked hard as a licensed vehicle mechanic and vehicle inspector, but became involved in a home renovation business connected to the crack ring three years ago. He had been using cocaine in some form for 30 years.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @erik_pindera

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Police Constable Rob Carver. Provincial property forfeiture officials filed documents to seize 10 properties in Point Douglas and at least nine bank accounts.

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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