Brandon Topilikon was “selling drugs for money to spend money on drugs” when he sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer in downtown Yellowknife, said Crown prosecutor Duane Praught.
Topilikon was the latest of 15 people charged in the RCMP’s Project Gloomiest, a year-long investigation into Yellowknife’s cocaine trade that wrapped up in December 2018.
Project Gloomiest netted more than 1,425 grams of cocaine and two firearms, police said at the time. The main player targeted by the operation was Toufic Chamas, an Edmonton man now serving a lengthy sentence for trafficking cocaine and various firearms offences.
Territorial Court on Friday heard that on March 13, 2018 at 3:30pm an undercover officer was standing on Franklin Avenue in front of the Centre Square Mall. He was approached by an individual who identified himself as Brando and offered to sell him “soft or hard,” meaning crack or powdered cocaine.
During the conversation, the court heard, the man identified himself as Brandon Topilikon. He said soft was $50 a gram and hard $60. The officer asked for “one hard” and Topilikon, 26, said he would have to retrieve it from a nearby apartment.
He returned a short while later and the exchange was made – all discreetly photographed by other officers.
Topilikon then told his new client he would need an additional $20 to receive a phone number for a “buy line” for any future drug needs.
When the contents of the baggie was later tested, it weighed a third of a gram and was confirmed to be cocaine.
No memory of transaction
Topilikon was arrested on November 27, 2018 and released on bail the following day, with a surety and conditions, including a curfew and order to abstain from alcohol.
When showed photographs of the drug deal, he agreed it was him in the picture, but said he didn’t remember the particular transaction as he was intoxicated at the time.
On January 4, 2019, after 10pm, Topilikon’s surety called police to advise the conditions of the bail were being violated. RCMP found him at a nearby apartment and he was arrested.
Topilikon was bailed again on January 7, 2019. In April he entered the drug treatment program option in NWT Wellness Court. However, he later breached conditions of that program.
From then until April 2020, Topilikon amassed a number of charges for breaching bail conditions and was in and out of custody.
Topilikon has eight convictions on his record, including two drug crimes, and was on probation when he sold cocaine to the undercover officer.
The Crown characterized the trafficking operation as being “on a minimal scale” but noted the dangers of cocaine to the community.
Hoping for a job
Topilikon had a demanding time as a youth, the court heard, growing up without a father and taking care of his mother, who had a psychological illness. His extended family had a history of being in the residential school system and alcohol abuse was significant.
“There is certainly a lot to consider there for the court,” said Praught, noting that until he was arrested, Topilikon was living with his common-law spouse and five children.
“He has taken on significant responsibilities throughout his life, under trying circumstances,” said Praught.
“Those circumstances certainly suggest a reduced level of moral culpability … and restraint has to be shown here today.”
On Friday the docket showed 21 counts including many alleged violations of court orders. In exchange for guilty pleas to seven counts, other charges were dropped.
The Crown called for a sentence of 15 months’ custody followed by two years’ probation.
Defence lawyer Jay Bran agreed his client “has many issues to deal with” and countered the Crown by calling for a sentence of 10 months with probation to follow.
Topilikon told the court he is trying to make the right moves in his life and wants to get a job to provide for his family.
“I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” he said, noting he has a job waiting for him in a kitchen in a local pub once he gets out of jail – and once the business can reopen under Covid-19 restrictions.
Judge Garth Malakoe sentenced Topilikon to one year behind bars, to be followed by two years’ probation.
With 201 remand days to his credit, Topilikon has 164 days left to serve.
However, he still faces charges related to a robbery on April 10. He is alleged to have robbed a man of his backpack at knifepoint. His next court date is June 16.