July 17th, 2024

Edmonton man gets house arrest for role in drug trafficking


By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 24, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

An Edmonton man who was part of a larger group of people caught selling drugs in Lethbridge in 2021, has been placed under house arrest.

Matthew Allen Smith, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday in Lethbridge court of justice to charges of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of the proceeds of crime and selling/offering/possessing unstamped tobacco.

He received a conditional sentence of two years less a day, the first 12 months of which he will serve under house arrest 24-hours a day. During the remaining portion of his sentence he must obey a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Federal Crown Prosecutor Mark Klassen told court the police investigation of Smith was part of a larger investigation between March and October 2021. Five individuals from Edmonton were targeted after police received information from informants that a group of men were planning to sell cocaine in the Lethbridge area.

The informants provided police with the street names of the individuals, cell phone numbers, the type of drug being sold, and details about the operation.

Police initially focused their investigation on two cellphones and a motor vehicle, and in April of 2021 became aware of Smith’s involvement with the group. By tracking one of the cell phones, police were led to a Lethbridge residence where they saw drug-related activity and the suspect vehicle, which Smith had rented in Edmonton.

Police were aware that Smith was routinely travelling between Edmonton and Lethbridge, and in October the same year they followed him to a Lethbridge residence where they arrested him as he was getting out of the vehicle.

During a search they found 120.5 grams of cocaine, two cell phones and 40,000 non-stamped cigarettes for which taxes had not been paid. Police also found $1,180 in cash when they searched the residence.

“It had all the hallmarks of a dial-a-dope operation,” Klassen said.

Smith is the last of the five men involved in the trafficking of drugs to be sentenced. The other men also received conditional sentences that included house arrest rather than jail.

Klassen pointed out that the other men involved in the trafficking operation were arrested for selling drugs to undercover police officers, but Smith was only in possession of drugs and not connected to the actual transactions.

Edmonton lawyer Rahul Nanda, who, with the Crown, jointly recommended a conditional sentence order, said his client is now sober and has turned his life around.

“He doesn’t want to be that person he was before,” Nanda told the judge. “This is not the life he wants his children to grow up in.”

As part of his conditional sentence order, Smith must reside at an approved residence in Edmonton and he must be assessed and receive counselling and treatment as directed by his probation supervisor. He is also prohibited from possessing weapons for the rest of his life, and he must provide 50 hours of community service by August of next year.

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