Vernon man guilty in international heroin importation case - InfoNews

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Vernon man guilty in international heroin importation case

Ronald Charles Learning.
Image Credit: Facebook
January 06, 2017 - 4:30 PM

VERNON - A Vernon man has been found guilty of 21 drug, weapons and other charges stemming from an undercover operation rolled out after border security found more than $100,000 of heroin hidden in a pair of lamps.

The shipment, which was intercepted at the Vancouver airport as it came in from Thailand, eventually led police to Ronald Charles Learning, who was on bail conditions at the time for another offence. In 2016, he was convicted in Regina Provincial Court for his role in a 2011 smuggling operation that moved drugs across the Montana-Saskatchewan border.

According to a written decision from Justice G.P. Weatherill, who gave the verdict Jan. 5 in Kelowna Supreme Court, Canada Border Services intercepted the box Jan. 8, 2015 and found 363 grams of hidden heroin worth roughly $180,000. Police decided to conduct a controlled delivery of the box, with most of the heroin replaced with placebo, to identify the intended recipient.

The box was delivered by an undercover officer posing as a UPS driver on Jan. 12, 2015. Neither of the people at the address had criminal records or were known to police. About an hour-and-a-half after the box was delivered, Learning pulled up with his girlfriend. He went inside and left with the box. At that point, police arrested Learning, his girlfriend and the two people living at the residence.

The next day, police searched Learning’s own residence and found a number of drugs and weapons, including handguns stuffed in an air vent. Officers also found digital scales, bundled cash and receipts for money transfers to Thailand.

A drug trafficking expert for the Crown testified that heroin is typically shipped to a Canadian addressee who is unsuspecting and has a clean criminal record. The ultimate recipient then retrieves the package. The expert witness said Learning was likely part of the drug distribution network at the mid-to-high level.

Learning’s legal counsel argued he was a blind courier and had no knowledge of the items later seized at his residence.

Justice Weatherill ruled the evidence against Learning was ‘overwhelming.’

“Ultimately, I agree with the Crown that all the evidence points to the accused being involved in the business of selling illegal drugs and the accused’s knowledge and control of the items seized at his residence are consistent with his role as a drug trafficker,” Weatherill said.

He said money transfers, wads of cash found in kitchen drawers, and the fact that Learning picked up the box all pointed to guilt. He also noted that Learning’s wallet contained lawyers’ business cards, ‘which are commonly found to exist in the possession of persons involved in illegal drug activity.’

The only witness called by the defence was Learning’s girlfriend (not the woman who was with him when he was arrested.) She testified that she never saw firearms at Learning’s house, however the judge said she was not credible and gave no weight to her evidence.

He is expected to be sentenced at a later date.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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