A Whitehorse man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in what police called one of the most significant organized crime investigations in Yukon.
Dubbed “Operation Monolith,” the RCMP investigation led to multiple arrests and the seizure of large quantities of drugs and weapons in November 2013.
In Yukon territorial court Friday Jesse Ritchie, 36, was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison.
With credit for the time he has already spent behind bars, Ritchie has five years left in his sentence.
Ritchie was one of the “higher-ups” in the organization, Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux told the court.
He admitted to being involved in trafficking marijuana and cocaine on different occasions throughout the police investigation. That includes a total of three kilograms of cocaine and more than 80 pounds (36 kilograms) of marijuana.
The drugs were worth a total of more than $400,000, the court heard.
As part of their investigation, police got information from a former drug dealer turned informant.
His name, and any information that could identify him, is protected under a publication ban.
Ritchie pleaded guilty last year. By doing that he prevented a long and expensive trial, Marcoux said.
Six weeks had been set aside for a trial. Another two weeks were booked for a Charter application by Ritchie, he said.
The sentence was recommended by both the Crown and Ritchie’s lawyer, and judge Donald Luther agreed. He called the sentence “fair and appropriate” under the circumstances.
Ritchie’s lawyer, Mark Jette, presented the court with a stack of letters from friends and family written in support of Ritchie.
Formerly from Surrey, B.C., Ritchie moved to the Yukon around 2005 and ran a health and wellness business selling products like vitamins and protein shakes.
Jette said his client is “someone who has taken a hard fall and has recognized his mistakes, is remourseful, did enter a guilty plea, and has this wonderful support from people who have been able to enlighten the court about the kind of person he really is.”
He has been employed since he was released on bail and there is work waiting for him when he is eventually released, Jette said.
Luther called the tone of the support letters positive. “More positive than I’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said.
Luther said Ritchie “made the biggest mistake of his life.” The judge described him as a man with an outgoing personality, who is inclined to help people.
Ritchie did not violate any of his conditions while he was out on bail, Luther noted. He has “already started on the road to rehabilitation.”
At the end of the sentencing hearing Ritchie stood and apologized.
“I for sure promise this court, my family and the victims that I… that I will not be doing this again,” he said.
“I understand what I’ve done and am pretty ashamed and embarrassed of what I’ve done.”
Along with prison time, Ritchie has been banned from owning a firearm for 10 years.
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