Project Forseti: Fallen Saints member Justin Smith sentenced to 18 years in prison on drugs, organized crime charges

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(VIDEO)--A high-ranking member of the Fallen Saints Motorcycle Club is the first person to be sentenced on criminal organization charges resulting from the Project Forseti investigation in Saskatoon. 

On Friday, Justin Murray Smith, 34, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for several gun, drug and organized crime offences. The Crown had argued for a 20-year global sentence while the defence sought nine years. 

Justice Shawn Smith sent a strong message with his sentence, calling Smith a trafficker of “poison and the instruments of death” at the “heart of organized crime” in Saskatoon. 

Smith pleaded guilty to fentanyl, heroin and cocaine trafficking during the second day of what was scheduled to be a 10-day trial at Court of Queen’s Bench. He then entered guilty pleas to unauthorized transfer of a handgun, unlawful possession of a handgun for the purpose of trafficking and conspiring with a police agent to traffic cocaine. 

On Thursday, Smith pleaded guilty to committing an offence for the benefit of a criminal organization by assaulting Travis Miles, an affiliate of the Fallen Saints, and recruitment to a criminal organization. 

The charges stem from the time period between March 2014 and January 2015, when the vice-president of the Fallen Saints, Noel Harder, was recruited to work as a police agent. Harder gathered information for Project Forseti, a lengthy drug investigation targeting the Fallen Saints and Hells Angels. 

The longest sentence Smith received was 15 years for fentanyl trafficking. He was sentenced to eight years for cocaine trafficking and four years for each weapons trafficking offence. Each criminal organization charge tacked on an additional two years.

The total sentence equals 35 years, but the judge applied the totality principle — which ensures sentences do not exceed the overall culpability of the offender and are seen as appropriate — to bring the sentence down to 18 years. 

Even though Smith, through his guilty pleas, acknowledged the Fallen Saints was a criminal organization, some key definitions are outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada. 

“First off, it has to be an organization; there has to be some structure to it. In this case, there was a president, a vice-president and other officers and Mr Smith acknowledged that he was the sergeant-at-arms,” federal Crown prosecutor Doug Curliss said outside court. 

The Criminal Code also requires proof that one of the purposes of the organization is to commit crimes. Smith acknowledged that the Fallen Saints was a drug trafficking organization that committed other crimes like assault, Curliss said. 

“Parliament felt that the fact that crimes were committed in conjunction with organizations made them even more serious, and I think the judge took that into account and posed a very serious sentence.”

Court heard the drug crimes were committed while Smith was on bail for assault and weapons trafficking. He also had a prior criminal record with 26 convictions.

Justice Smith said there were no mitigating circumstances in this case. He imposed the Crown’s request that the offender serve half his sentence before he is eligible for parole. 

“You have well earned this bitter harvest,” he told Smith. 

Mark Michael Nowakowski, Ryan William Hillman, Armand Leigh Hounjet, Layne Joseph James Boorman, Carl Allan Trobak and Daryl Michael Nagy are still before the court facing criminal organization charges.

Complete coverage: Project Forseti

Aggravating factors included Smith’s criminal record — he has 26 prior convictions — and the fact he was out on bail when some of the crimes were committed. The Crown has argued for a 20-year sentence while the defence sought a nine-year sentence. The largest part of the sentence was 15 years for fentanyl trafficking. Smith, who admitted to being a high-ranking member of the Fallen Saints, must serve nine years before he is eligible for parole, court heard.

Justice Smith said there were no mitigating factors in the case, despite the fact Smith did plead guilty.

Smith, 34, had originally pleaded not guilty but changed his pleas last month after hearing testimony from Noel Harder, a police agent who said Smith sold him pills during a meeting in November 2014.

Harder turned 510 pills over to police, according to an admission of facts. They were tested and found to contain both fentanyl and heroin. Harder was the Fallen Saints vice-president before signing on to work with police on Project Forseti.

Court heard secret recordings of conversations between Harder and Smith discussing how to make fentanyl pills look like real OxyContin pills. Harder said he didn’t think the pills they had looked professional, but Smith assured him that people “love them.”

Video surveillance from Harder’s office — which was also used as the Fallen Saints clubhouse — showed Smith entering the building carrying a small box on Nov. 20, 2014. Harder testified the pills were in that box.

The box also contained a note. Harder said it stated the amount of money Smith would pay to him, the club and Smith’s lawyer. Smith allowed Harder to delay payment while Harder had the pills checked out, court heard. The Crown alleges Harder paid Smith the next day.

Harder testified that during a recorded conversation that same day, Smith said he was still waiting on a kilogram of cocaine. Smith is a “highly connected individual to the highest level players in the drug trade and motorcycle clubs,” Harder testified.

Smith was also charged with unauthorized transfer of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm for the purpose of transferring it, possessing a firearm while prohibited to do so, possession of an unauthorized, prohibited firearm and transporting a firearm without lawful excuse.

This was the second trial in connection with Project Forseti. Hells Angels member Robert Allen was convicted of cocaine trafficking in February, following a trial in December.

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