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Opening comments:  More at the end.

    Lots of the details that really fill out the story and leave you wondering like - "Police said the 21 MP3 players were among 444 stolen from a police lock-up at 12 Division. But all 444 MP3 players have been accounted for.", how can you charge a person with stealing something that is not missing?

    The big question is - if his fellow officers were out to frame him - WHY?

    What is this?  A "
ranking officer", "faked an illness to his mother" ????????????

Lots more to this story here.

Torstar Network - Jun. 12, 2010 - By 
The drug sting that stung a cop

From the beginning, the RCMP drug sting known as Project O’Caper was a disaster in the making.

The undercover operation hit its first blip shortly after the Mounties arranged for the purchase of 147 bricks of cocaine in Peru and replaced it with white flour.  When the fake shipment reached Lima airport, one brick was missing and 11 others had been replaced with concrete powder.

The project went completely off the rails when the fake cocaine shipment, now hidden inside 88 boxes of mangoes, arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Nov. 16, 2005:

• When the legitimate courier driver received a mysterious phone call ordering him to drive the shipment to a deserted trucking yard, he panicked and went to Peel police.  At the same time, the RCMP’s tracking devices hidden in the bricks stopped working.

• Things became much more complicated when Peel police officers arrived on the scene and assumed they had found a massive cocaine shipment.  What happened next is the subject of dispute.

• Two days later, when the tracking devices began working again, the RCMP found eight ripped-open bricks in a dumpster and 15 more in a Cambridge house that belonged to Peel Const. Sheldon Cook.  The officer said he was ordered by superiors to take the bricks to his house.  Now, as the case against Cook awaits Justice Casey Hill’s verdict on June 23, the question remains:  Was the veteran Peel constable a dirty cop or was he set up?

Cook, now 42, vehemently denied any wrongdoing when he took the stand last August.  He was eager to clear his name during his five days of testimony.
“The media labelled me a drug dealer like Pablo Escobar.  But there wasn’t a speck of cocaine found at my house,” Cook said.

He said he would never have risked his career, his house or jeopardized the lives of his wife and two children to suddenly turn into a drug trafficker.  He said he knew the drugs were fake and was simply following “chain of command” orders when he took the bricks home.

His lawyer Patrick Ducharme suggested during his January submissions that the real crooks were Sgt. Marty Rykhoff and Acting Det. Warren Williams, both of whom worked with Cook the night the shipment was seized and testified as key Crown witnesses against his client.  He suggested both of Cook’s superiors lied to investigators and lied during the trial.

At issue is what happened after the Mounties lost track of the shipment at the airport.  Unbeknownst to the RCMP officer who was hoping to track the drugs to the Canadian importer, a courier truck picked up the load just after 6 p.m.  But when the driver and his passenger received a call telling them to deliver the mangoes to a dark and deserted trucking yard where a vehicle would flash its lights then direct them to another location, they panicked and drove straight to a Peel police community station on Lakeshore Rd. in Mississauga.

When Const. Robert Bryant discovered the “cocaine” shipment, he called 12 Division.  Cook and Williams were among the officers dispatched.  Cook drove a police cruiser.  Williams took a van. Rykhoff later arrived to supervise the operation.

Crown prosecutors David Rowcliffe and Anya Weiler maintained Cook thought the drugs were real when he took them home in his police cruiser.  But after realizing the drugs were fake, he didn’t have time to get rid of the bricks before RCMP officers in bulletproof vests raided his home.

But in a startling admission during their summations, they agreed Cook must have had a clever co-conspirator, namely Rykhoff and perhaps even Williams.  All three men might have been involved in stealing what they thought were real drugs.

Rykhoff and Williams were both disciplined under the Police Services Act for their conduct during the initial seizure and the days afterwards.  But neither was charged criminally in connection with this case.

When the Peel officers found mysterious wires hidden in the boxes, the bomb squad was called.  Cook, Rykhoff, Williams and others unloaded several packages from the truck into police vans before the remaining boxes were exploded with a water bomb.  Cook insisted Rykhoff took a box from the back of the courier truck and walked away with it, later asking to borrow the keys to his cruiser. Rykhoff denied this.

Incredibly, at one point during the night, Williams and another officer drove the van with suspected drugs to a nearby fast food outlet.

Cook maintained he was surprised when he discovered the 15 bricks in a mango box inside the trunk of his cruiser at the end of his shift in the early hours of Nov. 17.  He insisted Williams saw the bricks and spoke to Rykhoff by a secure police radio and told Cook to take them home and deliver them to the morality squad the next morning.

By the time he left for home, Cook said, they all knew the drugs were fake.  The powder was dull and chalky, not like real cocaine, which is crystalline or oily to touch.  It didn’t even have the telltale cocaine odour.  Cook understood Rykhoff would tell the morality squad what was happening.  Rykhoff even told him “not to worry” because the bricks weren’t real cocaine.

Other officers, however, testified that even after a special test was done after midnight at the scene, seasoned drug officers thought the substance might still be low grade heroin, methamphetamine or ketamine and possibly even cocaine.

But Rykhoff didn’t tell the morality squad anything.  In fact, he didn’t show up for work on Nov. 17.  Instead, he faked an illness to his mother, booked off sick and flew to Halifax for a college-football game with friends.  He was later convicted of several Police Act offences in connection with the investigation and docked five days pay.

At the trial, Rykhoff denied almost every part of Cook’s account.

Williams also denied seeing the bricks in Cook’s cruiser or telling him to take them home.  He admitted making several phone calls to Cook and meeting him at different locations, insisting he did so to get an explanation of why he took the product home.  Williams was also convicted of a Police Act offence for failing to take notes in connection with his involvement in the investigation.

During the raid on Cook’s house, the Mounties also found a small quantity of marijuana hidden in a box on the top of a storage shelf.  They also found 21 MP3 players, which they believed were stolen from an unrelated Peel police investigation.

Cook pleaded not guilty to an attempt to possess a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking; possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking; possession of stolen property from a police investigation; and breach of trust as a police officer in connection with the other offences.

As a result of his arrest, the federal justice department decided not to prosecute at least six drug cases involving Cook as the arresting officer.  A month after he was charged, a Peel judge acquitted former Toronto Argonaut Orlando Bowen of drug charges and assaulting police.  The charges were laid by Cook and another officer.  Bowen alleged at his trial that Cook planted a small amount of cocaine on him during his arrest.  A $14 million lawsuit filed by Bowen against Peel Police and several officers, including Cook, is still pending.

Prosecutors have agreed to reduce the marijuana charge to simple possession but Cook maintains he had no knowledge it was in his garage and was in a box belonging to someone else.

Police said the 21 MP3 players were among 444 stolen from a police lock-up at 12 Division. But all 444 MP3 players have been accounted for.  Cook insisted the devices belonged to his brother, who had bought them at a Brampton flea market to be used as gifts for his real estate clients.  He gave four to Cook, one he kept for himself and the others, hidden under his bed, were to be Christmas gifts.

On June 23 in a Brampton courtroom, the judge will decide.

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