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National Defence staffer still at work despite charges in relation to drug operation
THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Published February 9, 2016 - 1:35pm
Last Updated February 10, 2016 - 7:18am
A Department of National Defence employee in Greenwood still works there despite being charged Tuesday with using her position to help Colombian and Mexican cartels smuggle drugs into Canada.
DND confirmed Tuesday that 55-year-old Darlene Margaret Richards has continued working for them since April 2015 at 14 Wing.
It was then that she was charged with two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine and two counts of conspiracy to traffic.
This week a new charge of breach of trust and two of possession of proceeds of crime were added.
“14 Wing Greenwood is aware of the additional charges laid against one of our civilian employees in relation to a lengthy international drug trafficking investigation,” DND public affairs officer Sylvain Robichaud wrote in an email.
“Since her arrest … the employee has been removed from access to restricted areas at 14 Wing,” Robichaud said.
“She was assigned to other duties while the justice system process takes its course.”
New charges were also laid against Delbert William Meister, a former Canadian Coast Guard employee, for giving out confidential information for criminal purposes.
The Coast Guard would only confirm that Meister had been an employee, but would not comment Tuesday due to the ongoing RCMP investigation.
The latest charges spring from a two-year investigation dubbed Operation Harrington. The international drug investigation begun in April 2013 and uncovered eight conspiracies to import cocaine into Canada from a number of countries including Antigua, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and the United States.
It led to 15 people being charged last April, including Meister and Richards. There were also charges in connection with four investigations into trafficking of cocaine and one investigation into trafficking in firearms.
In addition to Meister and Richards, Halifax’s Stephen Alexander Fleming and Gary Christopher Meister of Bedford were also charged last April.
Meister and Richards were released on conditions and are scheduled to appear at Halifax Provincial Court on March 29. Both are suspected of using confidential information to assist in drug-running.
Sting involved hundreds of officers
Operation Harrington: A mundane enough name, but justice officials say their operation has revealed a drug-moving master plan of multinational scope, aiming to make Nova Scotia an import hub for cocaine from places like Antigua, Brazil, Guyana and Colombia, with redistribution to major centres such as Toronto, Florida and California.
Firearms, vehicles, drug paraphernalia, money and over 200 kilograms of cocaine were seized during the investigation that culminated in April 2015.
International drug cartels from Mexico and Colombia were involved in the plan, officials said, calling the strategy “borderless, sophisticated and constantly evolving.”
Pulling together international crime-fighting agencies, Operation Harrington led to the April 2015 arrests of 15 Canadians, including four Nova Scotians.
In addition to Darlene Richards and Delbert Meister, 69, charged were Gary Christopher Meister, 69 of Bedford, on two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine and two counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, and Stephen Alexander Fleming, 33, of Halifax, charged with conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
RCMP Chief Supt. Marlene Snowman said in 2015 the force was given information in 2013 about a conspiracy to ship cocaine from South America to Nova Scotia, prompting the formation of Operation Harrington, a complex, two-year investigation involving hundreds of officers and multiple international agencies.
“It’s not often we get a file of this magnitude in Nova Scotia,” Snowman said.
Cabana said other agencies included the FBI, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Defence Department, Halifax Regional Police, the Bahamas Police Force, the St. Christopher & Nevis Police Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and RCMP from Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
Among those charged are former 2002 Olympic snowboarder Ryan James Wedding, 33, recently of Montreal.
Wedding, originally from Coquitlam, B.C., has already done hard time after a guilty plea for American cocaine trafficking charges (stemming from a 2008 arrest in the U.S.) in 2010.
He now faces two charges of conspiracy to import cocaine and two charges of conspiracy to traffic.
A list of people charged in the case and the charges they’re facing:
Delbert William Meister, 69, Halifax — one count breach of trust, two counts possession of proceeds of crime
Darlene Margaret Richards, 55, Greenwood — one count breach of trust, two counts possession of proceeds of crime.
Police allege both used their positions of employment with the Coast Guard and Department of National Defence for information for criminal purposes.
Steven Tello, Toronto — four counts conspiracy to import cocaine, two counts trafficking.
Mathew Thomas Fleming, Maple, Ont. — four counts conspiracy to import cocaine, one count of trafficking, one count of trafficking firearms.
Gary Christopher Meister, Bedford — two counts conspiracy to import cocaine, two counts conspiracy to traffic.
Michael Costa, Vaughan, Ont. — one count conspiracy to import cocaine, one count of trafficking.
Philipos Kollaros, Montreal — two counts conspiracy to import cocaine, two counts of conspiracy to traffic.
Bayon David Figueroa Escobar, 36, Montreal — one count of trafficking cocaine
Stephen Alexander Fleming, Halifax — one count of conspiracy to import cocaine, one count of conspiracy to traffic.
Delbert William Meister, Halifax — two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine, two counts of conspiracy to traffic.
Darlene Margaret Richards, Greenwood — two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine, two counts of conspiracy to traffic.
2015 WARRANTS ISSUED
Bassam Kassel Elouta, Richmond Hill, Ont. — one count of conspiracy to import cocaine.
Ryan James Wedding, Montreal — two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine, two counts of conspiracy to traffic, one count trafficking.
Normand Joseph Pomerleau, Montreal — one count of conspiracy to import cocaine, one count of conspiracy to traffic.
Michael Charles Dibben, Montreal — two counts of conspiracy to import cocaine.
Edouard Semmikian, Montreal — one count of conspiracy to import.
Alyas Rahimi, Toronto— one count of conspiracy to import.
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