Kamloops drug trafficker apologizes in court for harm caused by dealing

Drug trafficker apologizes

A high-ranking Kamloops drug dealer facing a potential 12-year prison sentence says he’s sorry for all the harm caused by his trafficking.

Zale Coty, 55, pleaded guilty earlier this week 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.

On Monday, federal Crown prosecutor Oren Bick said he’d like to see Coty jailed as long as 12 years.

Bick described Coty as a savvy drug dealer who ran his trafficking operation like a business, supplying drugs to dealers who then sold to users. He also said Coty mentored the dealers and bragged about his vast experience in the drug trade.

Defence lawyer Jeremy Jensen, who is seeking a sentence half as long as that sought by prosecutors, painted a very different picture in his submissions on Tuesday.

'Deeply sorry' for harm caused

Jensen described Coty’s operation as “unsophisticated," specifically pointing to evidence YouTube was relied upon for instructions on how to process drugs.

“By no means by discussing this as amateur am I undermining the seriousness of this,” he said.

Coty was caught on a covert recording boasting about having 23 years of experience in the drug trade. Jensen said that was "bravado."

Coty said he is “deeply sorry” for his actions.

“There hasn’t been a day I don’t think about my wrongful behaviour and actions since I was arrested,” he said.

“Now, four and a half years later, I still feel the gravity of my crimes and the harm I caused people.”

Coty said he has always taken pride in “being a working man who earns his keep.”

“I will carry this shameful burden forward as a reminder to never look back at this nightmare I caused everyone,” he said.

Operation linked to biker gang

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.

When Coty was arrested, police seized $335,605 in cash and $70,000 to $90,000 worth of drugs. The cash is now the subject of civil forfeiture proceedings against Coty and co-accused Jacob Cavanagh.

Police linked the Sunshine Gardens operation to the Throttle Lockers, a Hells Angels puppet club that was attempting to set up shop in Kamloops.

Sentencing delayed for surgery

Coty’s two co-accuseds have already been sentenced — Cavanagh to four years in prison and Shawn Carlisle to 30 months.

Coty is not expected to learn his fate until sometime this summer.

Jensen asked for time to allow Coty to undergo surgery next month, followed by about a month of recovery.

Lawyers will return to court on April 22 to set a date for sentencing.

The earliest Coty will be sentenced is late June.

He remains free on bail.

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