Convicted Vernon drug dealer on the lam as judge imposes jail sentence | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Convicted Vernon drug dealer on the lam as judge imposes jail sentence

Vernon Supreme Court
September 06, 2016 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - On one day alone, roughly 270 calls and 250 text messages were found on a dial-a-dope drug dealer’s cell phone, court heard during a Vernon man’s sentence hearing.

Benjamin Bridger, 23, was arrested in September 2014 with just over eight grams of cocaine, three grams of heroin and five grams of methamphetamine, worth nearly $2,000 combined. He also had $550 in cash, and a cell phone ringing constantly.

Bridger was convicted on three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking, one for each type of drug he was selling, and was expected in court today, Sept. 6 for sentencing in Vernon Supreme Court.

He didn’t show up despite numerous attempts by his lawyer, Juan O’Quinn, to contact him. Bridger has not reported to his bail supervisor since June, and a warrant was issued at the end of July, court heard.

“It appears Mr. Bridger has no further interest in this matter and indeed has absconded,” Crown counsel Anthony Varesi said.

Justice Allan Betton proceeded with sentencing despite Bridger’s absence.

On the day Bridger was arrested, roughly 270 calls and 250 text messages were found on his cell phone, most of them dealing with the purchase and sale of drugs, Varesi said during sentencing submissions. Given the high volume of calls and texts, as well as the quantity of drugs and surveillance of the operation, Varesi said this was a busy, active dial-a-dope operation. He argued for a sentence of one year in jail.

O’Quinn pointed out Bridger was only 21 at the time of the offence and has no previous criminal record. He asked Justice Betton to consider a sentence of six months.

Justice Betton settled on a sentence of 11 months in jail, plus a ten-year firearms ban and a DNA sample — whenever Bridger is located and brought into custody.

“Dial-a-dope operations are a mechanism by which drugs are distributed throughout a community with relative speed and ease and are a real concern in terms of trafficking,” Betton said.

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