The Multi-Year Undercover Sting to Catch a Man Selling Less Than $100 of Fish

Credit to Author: Mack Lamoureux| Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2019 17:27:47 +0000

Authorities in Saskatchewan conducted a sting operation on an Indigenous man who sold a tiny amount of fish to an undercover officer because apparently they have nothing better to do.

The amount of fish their multi-year undercover operation caught being sold? Ninety-one bucks.

Think about that amount of money, it’s not very much in regards to “illegal operations”—that’s less than one good karaoke night, which is how we judge money at VICE Canada. It’s not like this was a small, short-lived project either by conservation officers, no, this went on for years and it seemed like it took up some serious resources. In all honesty, the whole thing feels like a Kids in the Hall sketch.

The target of the sting was an Indigenous man named Donald Iron who lived in Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan. According to the court documents first reported on by the CBC, the conservation officers began investigating Iron after they received numerous complaints, dating back to 1997, that he was selling Canoe Lake fish illegally.

The sting began in 2016 with a conservation officer going undercover—which is something I didn’t know conservation officers did—and heading to Iron’s home. The undercover officer said that he was a scientist and that he needed to plant some “air-quality monitoring equipment” on Iron’s lawn. Seems a lot for one man selling small amounts of fish out of his home, right? Well, it gets wilder.

“The undercover officer visited Mr. Iron’s home once or twice almost every month between June 2016 and October 2017,” reads the court documents. “When he was there he would “check” the sham air-quality monitoring equipment and change its filters. He always made sure to pay Mr. Iron the agreed monthly fee of $20.”

If you do the math, you’ll notice that it’s 17 months from June 2016 and October 2017 and that if he paid him 20 bones a month, and the 25 up front, the province paid out $365 to Iron just through this little portion of the scheme. This—and remember it’s not counting what the officers were paid and the sham equipment cost—run over four times more than what they would eventually get Iron for.

When the undercover officer visited to play scientist he would apparently chat up Iron when he was on his land and fish would come up on occasion. Iron then told the officer that he would get him some fish, however, “on most occasions, for one reason or another, the defendant did not have any fish for the officer.” It really seems like Iron was running a top-notch fish catching organization here.

After more time and more money spent, Iron finally got some fish to the officer giving him two northern pike fillets in February 2017. He didn’t ask for payment though, he just asked for a pack of smokes in return—the officer didn’t give Iron some darts though, instead, he handed over $10 for smokes saying it was the same thing. Over the next little while, Iron every month or so would sell some fish to the officer sometimes one bag, sometimes more—it was always at $10 a bag.

The sting operation finally concluded in October of 2017 when the undercover officer tore down his fake air monitoring equipment. The sting found that “over a period of 16 months, Mr. Iron sold 10 bags of fish to the undercover officer for a grand total of $90.”

Iron’s defence attorney argued Iron was entrapped because the “undercover cover officer enticed his illiterate, poor, and, allegedly, alcoholic client into committing these offences by ‘waving money in his face.’” They also argued that the amount of fish that Iron pulled from Canoe Lake—which Iron wasn’t allowed to sell because he didn’t hold a commercial fishing license—was so small it didn’t matter.

The judge threw out both these arguments because of course they did, writing that it wasn’t entrapment because Iron broached the subject of being paid for his fish first and that “illegally selling even a few fish, here and there, is not a blameless, or a victimless, offence.”

Iron will be sentenced on February 14. Well done, guys, seems like this was a good use of everyone’s time and money.

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