June 16, 2016 - 8:00 PM
VERNON - A Vernon man caught working as a drug courier in a massive cocaine smuggling operation was handed a lengthy prison sentence earlier this week.
Ronald Charles Learning was sentenced to eight years and 234 days in jail for possession for the purpose of trafficking, and breaching court conditions on Monday, June 13.
Learning was nabbed by police Oct. 1, 2011 in Salmon Arm carrying 30 kilograms of fake cocaine in hidden vehicle compartments. Police had swapped out the real drugs with ‘sham cocaine’ and a tracking device earlier in the operation.
If it was real, the cocaine would have fetched a value of between $1.2 million and $2.3 million.
Learning is the last of half a dozen men caught smuggling cocaine from California to B.C. via the Saskatchewan-Montana border to be sentenced. The police investigation was known in Canada as ‘Project Faril’ and saw fellow Vernon-area men William Bruce Larsen, Troy Swanson and ring leader Brock Ernest Palfrey put behind bars.
It’s unclear if Learning was a one-time courier in the smuggling operation, or more heavily involved. Court heard how another person was expected to go to the meet and pick up the drugs, but Learning filled in at the last minute.
With sentencing complete for his involvement in the cocaine trafficking operation, Learning still has outstanding charges on separate matters. He’s due in Vernon Provincial Court later this year on a series of weapons-related charges stemming from a January 2015 investigation that began with Canada Border Services intercepting a large quantity of heroin from Thailand.
He’s scheduled to appear in Vernon court for trial beginning Oct. 6, 2016, on the weapons charges and July 21, 2016, for trial on a charge of failing to comply with court ordered conditions.
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