André Gravelle, 11 others, charged in medical marijuana bust

RCMP and Hamilton police say they’ve unravelled a complex criminal organization that used Canada’s medical marijuana program as a front for an alleged drug trafficking, with the kingpin of the notorious Gravelle family allegedly at the helm.

The 18-month investigation began with a probe into local, known criminal groups, who appeared to be working together, said RCMP Inspector Steve Martin. Then drug busts in Eastern Canada were linked to local operations.

Police found 240 mature marijuana plants growing inside truck trailers parked on two Beach Road addresses, near Kenilworth Avenue North, during searches this past November.

While the number of plants is not large, Martin said the investigation is significant because of the organized crime element, adding that the most significant charge laid is being part of a criminal organization.

It took police until Thursday morning to arrest those allegedly behind the operation. Martin said police had to make sure there was no one who legally had the right to obtain that marijuana.

Police allege André Gravelle, 49, was the kingpin directing others to obtain licences to grow medicinal marijuana, in order to distribute and sell the drug illegally in Canada, as far east as Newfoundland. Police said the plants were being grown under a dozen different licences, despite the fact that Health Canada stipulates there can only be four licences at one address.

Also charged was lawyer Ira Greenspoon, 56. Martin alleged the lawyer advised the operation how to work, but would not talk about what evidence investigators have against him.

According to the Law Society of Upper Canada, Greenspoon is currently a licenced lawyer. However, he is scheduled to face a disciplinary hearing for misconduct charges next week in relation to an alleged mortgage fraud.

Reached on his cellphone, Greenspoon, a Dundas resident, said he had no comment.

It is very uncommon to see a lawyer charged with crimes. Martin said this is only the second time in his 31-year career he has been involved in an investigation that has charged a lawyer.

Gravelle’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, said the Hamilton property searched last year housed marijuana being legally grown. Gravelle does not have a licence.

Morris said he didn’t know any further details of the charges, but recognized the names of most of the co-accused.

Eleven of those charged were released on their own recognizance Thursday morning, including Greenspoon, Gravelle’s brother, Daniel Gravelle, 56, son, André Leo Gravelle, 20, and sister, Ruth Ann Gravelle Finlayson, 41.

André Gravelle remains in a Gravenhurst correctional facility after having his parole suspended this past November because of the police investigation.

Gravelle is serving a sentence of three years and 10 months for conspiracy to import hash oil and conspiracy to possess hash oil for the purpose of trafficking stemming from a $15- million international hash-oil smuggling ring busted in Nova Scotia in September 2008.

He was released on parole in November 2010. His sentence ends Feb. 13, 2014.

The Parole Board of Canada officially revoked his parole on Feb. 28.

According to the parole board decision, Gravelle was arrested Nov. 22, 2012, while police conducted drug searches at a property he said he was renovating as part of his employment. Police informed the board Gravelle had been the subject of the drug-trafficking investigation since January 2012 and had been under surveillance, including wiretaps, between July and November.

“Those conversations led police to believe you had breached your (parole condition to not associate with those in the drug subculture), were involved in the production of marijuana and were not living at your approved address,” said the board in its decision.

The properties searched by Hamilton police and RCMP in November include 568 Beach Rd., where a business called Pacex Package Expres is housed, and a neighbouring vacant property.

Pacex is owned by Shannon Kemp, who is not facing criminal charges.

Kemp was Gravelle’s wife. Through her lawyer, Rob Macdonald, Kemp said she had no comment.

Macdonald, of the Toronto-based firm Davis Moldaver, said his client has no more connections to Gravelle.

“There is no relationship between Ms. Kemp and André Gravelle and there hasn’t been for many years,” he said, adding that she is trying to run a business and doesn’t want anything to do with whatever is going on in his life.

Neighbours in the Beach Road area recalled being woken up early one morning in November by a large police presence at that property.

Health Canada spokesperson Stéphane Shank said cases where the medical marijuana system results in charges are, “exactly why we recognize, why the government recognizes, the current (medical marijuana system) is open to abuse.”

Health Canada has proposed changes to the licence system, which would eliminate personal production in favour of licensed commercial producers who would be inspected and audited by the federal department.

THE CHARGES

André Gravelle , 49, of Hamilton is facing charges of participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cannabis oil, conspiracy to traffic hashish, production of marijuana, trafficking a controlled substance, counselling in the commission of an indictable offence, and false pretense.

Ira Greenspoon , 56, of Hamilton is facing charges of participating in a criminal organization, counselling in the commission of an indictable offence and false pretense.

Daniel Gravelle , 56, of Hamilton is facing charges of participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cannabis oil, conspiracy to traffic hashish, and false pretense.

André Leo Gravelle , 20, of Hamilton is charged with false pretense.

Ruth Ann Finlayson , 41, of Hamilton is charged with fabricating evidence and obstructing justice.

Bradley Huffman , 42, of Hamilton is facing charges of participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cannabis oil, conspiracy to traffic hashish, and production of marijuana.

Ronald Welch , 55, of Hamilton is facing charges of participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cannabis oil, and conspiracy to traffic hashish.

Jeffery Dzenekoj , 37, of Hamilton is facing charges of conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cannabis oil, and conspiracy to traffic hashish.

Selina Osmond , 33, of Hamilton is facing charges of conspiracy to traffic marijuana, conspiracy to traffic cannabis oil, and conspiracy to traffic hashish.

Joseph Cuvelier , 48, of Hamilton is charged with conspiracy to traffic marijuana.

Lawrence Mulholland , 49, of Hamilton is charged with production of marijuana.

Bruce Kenner , 54, of Hamilton is charged with false pretense.

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

With files from Rosie-Ann Grover, Joan Walters and Daniel Nolan