A Dartmouth man convicted of moving $3.5 million worth of marijuana from British Columbia to Nova Scotia made a “calculated gamble” that wound up with a judge sentencing him to 30 months behind bars.
Kirk Edward Withrow, 54, “lived a pro-social life without legal conflict” until four years ago, according to his presentence report.
“However, that all changed in the summer of 2015 when Mr. Withrow became involved in a conspiracy to traffic British Columbia cannabis in Eastern Canada and to deliver the cash proceeds back to British Columbia,” Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady said in a written decision released Wednesday.
Over three months, Withrow was one of a dozen individuals who organized 52 return trips between Vancouver and Halifax that moved between 657 and 855 kilograms of pot from the West Coast to the East Coast.
“Police conducted 26 covert searches of suitcases and found marijuana going east and cash going west,” Coady said.
While Withrow “was not the architect of the enterprise,” he played a critical role in Halifax and Dartmouth, said the judge.
“Essentially, he worked with other conspirators in Halifax and Vancouver to meet couriers at the airport and collect suitcases of cannabis for delivery to the purchasers. He then collected suitcases of cash and drove that cash and the courier back to the Halifax airport.
“When the police curtain came down, Mr. Withrow acknowledged knowing what was in the suitcases going each way.”
He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime, conspiracy to possess the proceeds of crime, trafficking, and laundering the proceeds of crime.
The Crown argued for three and a half years in prison, “forfeiture of all offence-related property,” a 10-year weapons ban and a $15,000 fine.
Withrow’s lawyer recommended a 90-day jail sentence, with two years' probation and the decade-long weapons ban.
“I accept there are other co-conspirators who contributed to the national scheme in ways greater than Mr. Withrow,” the judge said. "That, however, does not relieve him of responsibility for his actions.
“He acted of his own free will and not as a result of external forces such as vulnerability, addiction, poverty and the like.”
A probe police placed in Withrow’s car “tells the court that he knew in 2015 that this day would ultimately arrive,” Coady said. “It was a calculated gamble.”
The judge sentenced Withrow, who was working as a cabbie, to 30 months on the conspiracy charges and 24 months on the others. All are to be served concurrently.
“I accept that often some of the ‘big fish’ are insulated from detection and prosecution,” Coady said. “These are the real money-makers.”
“They are essentially downloading the risk. For reasons of greed, Mr. Withrow stepped into the breech to perform absolutely critical roles.”