Ethiopian-born refugee Thiong Lual Thiong might perform in a band that gets millions of hits on YouTube, but he’ll be playing the blues for a while after being convicted of trafficking cocaine.
Thiong, 34, appeared in Moose Jaw provincial court recently, where he pleaded guilty to trafficking drugs (cocaine) and failing to comply with a court order. As part of a joint sentence, he will be placed on probation for 270 days; he was given 74 days’ credit after spending 49 days on remand, leaving 196 days to be served in a correctional centre.
He also received five days’ credit for the two days he had spent in custody for breaching a prior court order.
Thiong will forfeit all the items police seized during their investigation, including cash and all items related to trafficking. He was also given a 10-year firearms ban and will have to submit a DNA sample.
The Crown stayed a charge of possession over $5,000 and breaching probation, while a charge of failing to comply with a court order was withdrawn.
The Moose Jaw Police Service received information sometime in October that trafficking was occurring at 662 Caribou Street West, explained federal Crown prosecutor Brian Smith. After conducting surveillance on the home, police attained a search warrant and hit the house on Oct. 30. Thiong was the only individual in the home; another person had been arrested moments earlier after leaving the dwelling.
After searching the residence, police found 85.4 grams of cocaine — powder and crack — with a street value of $8,500, while they also found $3,340 in cash and objects related to trafficking, Smith continued. Officers also found cocaine near a backpack in an upstairs bedroom in which Thiong had been staying.
At the time, Thiong had been bound by a court order in Calgary that, among other things, prohibited him from possessing drugs.
“He was not on the police radar at all at the time of the search,” Smith said, a search that also found 10 cellphones that were analyzed to determine Thiong’s involvement in this operation.
Thiong came to Canada from Ethiopia as a refugee in 2003 and completed high school in Windsor, Ont., said defence lawyer Linh Pham. He then moved to Brooks, Alta., for work, before eventually moving to Moose Jaw, where he worked as a DJ.
When Thiong is released, he wants to find employment again, but he also wants to focus on his passion for music and producing music, something he had done for the last 10 years with great success, continued Pham. He performs with the group The Bebop Boys, which has more than one million views on YouTube and followers in India.
“There is the potential for him to make money in that area (based on his skills),” added Pham.
It was only in 2018 when Thiong acquired a criminal record. After this incident, said Pham, Thiong indicated he never wants to be involved with the justice system ever again. He wants to put this situation behind him and took full responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty early.
This sentence is lenient, the defence lawyer continued. It does not bring the justice system into disrepute, nor is it contrary to the public interest.
“You have a good (career) ahead of you and opportunities ahead of you,” said Judge Daryl Rayner. “Don’t waste it today. This is a relatively light sentence for this type of offence. Normally a minimum sentence is 18 months and up.”
Rayner added that he accepted the conditions laid out in the joint submission.