Ac­cused drug dealer a big gambler, trial told

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - DOUG SCH­MIDT

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.

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