Accused drug dealer a big gambler, trial told
Jimy Al-Ubeidi’s 2012 earnings, according to his Revenue Canada tax filings, were just $2,565. With approximately $18,000 in employment insurance payments he made on top, his total income that year was just over $20,000. But a Windsor court heard this week that the Caesars Windsor regular sustained more than $100,000 in gambling losses that year. He was a partner and owner at the time of a Leamington convenience store that his wife testified was profitable. His additional gambling losses in 2013 were almost $70,000, assistant Crown attorney Zuzana Szasz told the court. Two weeks into the following year, the Ontario Provincial Police executed a drug raid at Jimy ’s Variety on Erie Street South in Leamington.
Illicit narcotics, including cocaine and fentanyl patches, valued in the thousands of dollars were seized from a safe in the store. The OPP said their investigation was launched in response to parents complaining that their kids were being sold drugs out of the convenience store. Thursday saw the conclusion of a fourth trial involving Jimy AlUbeidi, 54, and drugs and money seized by police from Jimy’s Variety on two occasions in 2014. The businessman was initially acquitted by Windsor judges following two separate trials involving drug raids in January and August 2014.
Both times, however, Ontario’s Court of Appeal ordered new trials. In August, the first retrial concluded with a conviction for the second drug bust made in 2014 while Al-Ubeidi was out on bail. The judge in that retrial described as “mind-boggling” the amount of cash seized given the “limited” amount of income Al-Ubeidi was declaring for tax purposes. Police seized $1,400 out of his pocket, $9,000 from the store’s safe and $9,375 found at his residence. Al-Ubeidi will be sentenced on that conviction next week. The judge who heard this week’s retrial on the original January 2014 drug trafficking charge described it as a complicated case, and he will announce his verdict later this month.
In his closing arguments Thursday, defence lawyer Even Weber said the Crown’s case relied entirely on circumstantial evidence and that the prosecution hadn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt the ownership of the seized drugs. Weber pointed the finger of guilt at Al-Ubeidi’s two co-accused business partners, who also worked for the store and who faced the same drug trafficking charges. Sattar AlShabawi, 54, disappeared before the first trial and remains on the lam, while Fahat Robiah, 60, had his charges withdrawn following a stroke that has left him incapable of standing trial.
Szasz countered that Al-Ubeidi, after whom the business was named, controlled the store and controlled the safe that contained the drugs that were in plain sight. She said it would “simply be foolish” for anyone else to have stored thousands of dollars in illicit narcotics, which also included oxycodone and hydromorphone tablets, in a safe in which a purportedly unknowing Al-Ubeidi stored bank cards and personal ID for himself and his wife, and for which he had a key.
While adamant he wasn’t a drug dealer, Al-Ubeidi readily admitted to other unsavoury actions, including making false statements on his government tax returns and selling unstamped tobacco (or illegal cigarettes).
Taking the stand as a defence witness on Thursday, Al-Ubeidi’s wife, Manon Lalonde, was asked by Justice Robert Fournier why her husband’s business changed its name so frequently. Over a roughly four-year period, under the same ownership and conducting the same type of business, the variety store that started as Oak Variety became, in succession, Oak Variety Plus, Oak Variety Store, Iraqi Food and then Jimy’s Variety. Each time, it was to “start fresh,” Lalonde testified. She said it was to avoid paying the penalty assessments that came each time a Ministry of Finance inspector busted the business for selling unstamped tobacco. According to Ministry of Finance documents provided by the prosecution, the Leamington convenience store operating under various names by the business partners was slapped with penalties in excess of $100,000 between 2011 and 2014. Each time the business changed its legal name, the court heard, the penalties levied against the previous legal name could be ignored. Outside the courtroom, Szasz said the taxmen of the Ministry of Finance are currently aware of that situation.
Jimy Al-Ubeidi will be sentenced next week on a drug trafficking conviction. A verdict is expected later this month in another trafficking trial.