One of the men charged following a major drug investigation has pleaded guilty to drug and weapons charges.
Leslie Gerald Bisson, of Griswold, entered his pleas in Brandon provincial court on Thursday to one count of cocaine trafficking and another for unauthorized possession of guns.
While Bisson pleaded guilty, his lawyer told court that Bisson’s precise role in the trafficking scheme will be the subject of dispute during a sentencing hearing set for mid-November.
"Effectively, we are at odds (with the Crown attorney) with respect to his level of involvement in the drug pyramid … and that’s what we will be arguing before your honour at the contested hearing," defence lawyer Eric Wach said.
No facts were put on the record on Thursday, but Crown attorney Erin Magas said the sentencing hearing won’t change the evidence that was gathered, but rather there’s a disagreement about what that evidence means and Bisson’s involvement.
The following outline of the investigation was previously available in civil court documents.
Bisson and others were charged as a result of Project Derringer, an investigation run by the Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force that started in January 2016.
Police believed that the drug operation brought kilograms of illegal drugs into the Brandon area for distribution.
Investigators asserted that drugs brought to Brandon by couriers were taken to an abandoned Brandon church and a farm near Griswold where they were stored, processed, repackaged and distributed to others such as drug dealers.
The investigation involved surveillance, hidden cameras, tracers planted on vehicles, and police sneak peeks into homes.
It ultimately led to the Oct. 13, 2016 arrest of two men, one of them Bisson, as they sat in a truck near the Griswold farm. The Brandon Police Service Tactical Response Unit made the arrests.
In the truck, police found a jacket with $20,000 to $25,000 cash in its pocket and 359 grams of marijuana in a shoebox.
In another pickup truck parked there, they found a duffel bag that contained three kilograms of vacuum-sealed cocaine worth $195,000, one kilogram of methamphetamine worth $55,000, and a rifle.
In a shed, they found a kilogram of cocaine, and in a U-Haul vehicle they discovered two packages of marijuana with a total weight of one pound.
Those were the allegations as they were available in civil court documents in November 2016.
As lawyers said on Thursday, the extent of Bisson’s role remains in dispute and will be subject to argument during the Nov. 9-10 sentencing hearing to be held in Brandon.
Bisson, 37, is charged with 23 offences. He pleaded guilty to two and the remainder have been put to the sentencing date to be dealt with.
He is currently in custody as he awaits sentencing.
Three other men charged in connection with Project Derringer — Javed Ali, Justin Tyler Reimer and Christopher Charles Bilay — remain before the courts.