Group arrested in cocaine-trafficking sting back in court next month

Rosie
Rosie Mullaley
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Defendants connected to organized crime: police

Eight people from the St. John’s metro area arrested in connection with a cocaine trafficking sting last month will have their cases back before a judge next month.

The decision was made Monday, when one of the group, Darrell Frank Tucker, had his case called in provincial court in St. John’s.

Tucker, 36, who is not in custody, wasn’t there, but was represented by lawyer Erin Breen.

Crown prosecutor Shawn Patten suggested to Judge Colin Flynn that Tucker, along with the other seven, have their cases moved to June 16 for a status update.

The others are Kurt Churchill, Leroy Thomas, Michelle Pike, John Hutchings, Glen Hussey, David Rypkema and Patrick Dooley.

When police arrested the group, officers seized cocaine, a loaded handgun, cash and other items they say are connected to organized crime.

The arrests were made as part of Operation Battalion, a joint forces wiretap investigation involving the RCMP and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary combined forces special enforcement unit targeting high-level cocaine traffickers in the St. John’s area.

Over a span of six months, it expanded into Vancouver and Montreal and involved members of the combined forces unit in Vancouver and the RCMP’s Montreal drug section.

Police said search warrants were executed on March 14 at

St. John’s International Airport, at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in Montreal and at homes and vehicles in the St. John’s area.

Investigators seized $350,000 in cash, cocaine, a loaded nine-mm prohibited handgun, ammunition, brass knuckles, a stun gun and a 2012 Toyota Tundra truck.

Churchill and Thomas face charges of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and several firearm-related offences. Churchill is also charged with three counts of uttering threats, one count of intimidating a police officer and additional firearm charges.

Accident allegedly staged

Tucker is believed to be one of the other six who allegedly planned and staged a fake motor vehicle accident in February.

People were taken to hospital from the staged accident scene, but investigators believe they were all part of the conspiracy and that there were no innocent victims.

Police say the accident was staged on Feb. 12 at 11:48 p.m. in the area of Groves Road and Gilles Place.

They’ve been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud over $5,000 and public mischief.

Tucker is charged separately with extortion and impersonation. It’s alleged he made calls impersonating someone else.

All eight suspects are said to know each other.

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: RCMP, International Airport, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport

Geographic location: Montreal, Vancouver, February.People Groves Road

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