Accused officer had no occasion to steal fake drugs, court hears

Nov 25, 2008 04:30 PM
Bob Mitchell
Staff Reporter

A Peel Police officer accused of stealing 15 bricks of fake cocaine that were supposed to be used in an RCMP sting, was never alone with the entire shipment, a fellow officer told a Brampton court today.

But Sheldon Cook was among three officers from Peel's 12 Division Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) who moved more than 100 suspected cocaine packages from a courier van to a CIB minivan and later to a morality bureau van, Peel Const. Robert Bryant testified.

Bryant said he believed the packages hidden inside boxes of mangoes contained real cocaine when Cook and others investigated the discovery on the night of Nov. 16, 2005.

The couriers who were transporting the mangoes sought help from Bryant at a Peel Police community station in Mississauga that night because they had become suspicious of the cargo they had picked up earlier from Pearson International Airport.

Two days later, a tracking device hidden in the bricks led RCMP investigators to Cook's Cambridge home.

The dummy drugs were found in a storage compartment of a Sea Doo in his garage. A search warrant uncovered some marijuana and several MP3 players allegedly taken from an unrelated investigation.

Federal prosecutors David Rowcliffe and Ania Weiler contend Cook believed the bricks were real cocaine and that he took some of them while investigating the discovery of the drugs by Bryant at the community station.

It's the Crown's case that Cook was unaware the drugs were fake or that they were to be used in an RCMP-controlled delivery as part of an international drug investigation.

Cook, 40, has pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges in this Brampton trial in connection with different offences, all in relation to the discovery of the dummy drugs and MP3s at his home.

Bryant today told the court that Cook and two other CIB officers were at the Lakeshore Rd. station for about three hours that night but he never recalled Cook being out of his presence except for when Cook and other officers were searching the cargo inside the courier van. Bryant said he was inside the station at the time.

Before alerting the CIB unit, Bryant said the couriers told him they had been paid cash to deliver the mangoes to an address in Scarborough. While they were en route they got a phone call, instructing them to go instead to a darkened trucking yard in south Mississauga. But when they encountered a vehicle flashing its lights at the yard they headed to a police station.

Believing he had discovered real drugs when he opened one of the boxes, Bryant called 12 Division and three CIB officers were dispatched, two in a minivan and Cook, alone, in a car.

Bryant said Cook told him to remain with the couriers while Cook and the other officers inspected the cargo.

But in separating the mangoes from the suspected drug packages, a device with wires was discovered. Officers thought it was an explosive device so a bomb disposal unit was called, Bryant said.

The officers didn't know at the time that the unit was actually a tracking device hidden in the packages by the RCMP.

While waiting for the bomb unit and morality officers to arrive, Bryant helped Cook and the other officers unload the packages from the courier van into the CIB minivan. Later, he helped them move the packages to a morality bureau van.

Bryant testified under cross examination by defence lawyer Pat Ducharme that he locked the courier van with the suspected drugs and always had the key.

He also admitted several officers were present when the fake drugs were eventually moved from the CIB van into the morality bureau van.

The other two other CIB officers left Cook and Bryant in the station when they went for food for about 20 minutes but Bryant didn't know if they took the CIB van with the drugs or Cook's car to the sandwich shop.

Bryant learned the following day that the drugs were actually decoys being used in an RCMP controlled delivery.

A total of 88 boxes of mangoes containing 146 hidden bricks of fake cocaine arrived at Pearson International Airport from Peru at about 6 a.m. on Nov. 16.

Despite being under surveillance, the shipment went missing about 12 hours later.

The RCMP became aware the next day that the fake drugs had been seized by Peel Police, but when they took possession of the dummy drugs there were 44 missing.

Court previously heard that 23 of the fake bricks were later recovered but that the other 21 have never been located.

The failed RCMP operation was designed to find the Canadian buyers of an international drug smuggling operation based in Lima, the Peruvian capital.

Cook is charged with attempt to possess a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, possession of stolen property (MP3 players) from a police investigation and breach of trust as a police officer in connection with the other offences.

The offences were allegedly committed between Aug. 7 and Nov. 18, 2005.

In addition to the tracking device and 15 fake bricks of cocaine found at Cook's Cambridge residence, another tracking device and eight fake bricks, sliced open, were found in a garbage bin behind the Blinds to Go store on Dundas St. near the Mississauga/Oakville border on the same day the search warrant was executed at Cook's home.

Cook remains suspended with pay. The case is also being watched closely by Peel's internal affairs bureau.

As a result of his arrest on Nov. 18, 2005, Justice Canada decided not to prosecute at least six drug cases where Cook was the arresting officer.

As well, a month after his arrest, a Peel judge acquitted former Toronto Argonaut Orlando Bowen of drug and assault charges that were laid by Cook and another officer. Bowen alleged at trial that Cook had planted a small amount of cocaine on him during his arrest.