Crown wants 12 years in prison for trafficker at 'highest level' of Kamloops drug trade

Top trafficker faces 12 years

Prosecutors want a 12-year prison sentence for a gang-affiliated trafficker who was at the “highest level” of the Kamloops drug trade when he was caught up in an undercover RCMP sting in 2019.

Zale Coty, 55, pleaded guilty Monday in B.C. Supreme Court to charges of trafficking cocaine, conspiracy to traffic fentanyl and carfentanil, possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking.

He was one of three men charged in 2022 following a years-long undercover investigation by Mounties targeting Sunshine Gardens, a former hydroponics shop in Valleyview that was owned by Coty.

During the investigation, police watched covertly while Coty ran his trafficking business from inside the Sunshine Gardens office. Investigators obtained a wiretap warrant and secretly hid microphones and video cameras inside the business.

The fruits of that effort gave Mounties a detailed look behind the curtain of the Kamloops drug trade and sealed Coty’s fate.

'At the highest level locally'

Police began investigating Sunshine Gardens in 2017.

Early the following year, undercover officers posing as clients struck up a relationship with one of Coty’s employees, Shawn Carlisle. When Carlisle began selling the Mounties cocaine, cannabis and extracts, police obtained a wiretap warrant.

Coty was directly involved in a May 27, 2019, transaction in which the undercover officers purchased a kilogram of cocaine from Carlisle for $49,500. He physically retrieved the drugs for Carlisle prior to the deal, meeting an unidentified man in a parking lot and leaving with a shoebox full of cocaine.

He also engaged in a conspiracy to traffic fentanyl and carfentanil with Jacob Cavanagh. In that case, Coty and Cavanagh were caught on wiretaps plotting to "experiment" with fentanyl to make their product more potent and increase profits.

Federal Crown prosecutor Oren Bick played a handful of audio clips in court on Monday in which Coty can be heard talking business with his drug-dealer clients and other associates.

Bick said the wiretaps show Coty was at the top of the Kamloops food chain.

“He was at the highest level locally, in Kamloops,” he said. “He said, ‘I run this business.’”

In at least one of the recordings played in court, a money counter could be heard whirring away while Coty talked shop with a dealer.

“He is the one who was trafficking to the traffickers,” Bick said.

“The facts demonstrate a leadership role, a mentorship role. He is speaking about pricing — their pricing, his pricing. He is giving them advice, he is encouraging them to sell more drugs. He uses the word ‘volume,’ he says, ‘Hustle, hustle, hustle.’ He is encouraging them to recover debts owed to them and to repay debts owed to him.”

Bick said Coty reloaded his supply from criminal organizations in Vancouver and Calgary. He also said Coty paid a tax to one of the gangs for "permission" to operate.

Linked to biker gang

When police executed search warrants at the conclusion of their investigation in 2019, they seized $335,605 in cash and $70,000 to $90,000 worth of drugs, Bick said. They later linked the operation to the Throttle Lockers, a Hells Angels support group they said was trying to set up shop in Kamloops.

The cash is now the subject of civil forfeiture proceedings against Coty and Cavanagh.

Bick is seeking a sentence of 12 years in federal prison for Coty. Defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen will make his sentencing submissions on Tuesday.

Coty’s two co-accused have already been sentenced. Carlisle was sentenced early last year to 30 months in prison and Cavanagh was handed a four-year sentence in December.

Coty remains free on bail.

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