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Toothbrush Linked Man to Bunker

By Hempology | February 16, 2007


A used toothbrush proved to be the proverbial smoking gun which links a Manitoba man to a bizarre underground drug lair, the province’s highest court has ruled.

Police seized the item during a 2001 raid of eight railway cars which had been buried three metres beneath the earth on a rural property near Dauphin. The cars were stuffed with more than 1,400 marijuana plants that could provide an annual yield of 700 pounds of pot, worth an estimated $1.4 million.

Police took DNA from the brush and traced it to Erik Johnson, who was arrested and charged with being a party to one of the most unusual drug operations ever uncovered in Manitoba.

Johnson was convicted at trial and sentenced last year to four years in prison. He appealed the decision but learned Thursday his bid was denied.

Appeal Court Justice Charles Huband said Johnson’s claim of innocence rings hollow, especially in the wake of his toothbrush being found inside the very hard-to-reach drug lab.

“The accused was in a select company of individuals who had access to the bunker itself. Given the personal nature of the item, it is reasonable to conclude that the accused spent considerable time in the bunker,” said Huband.

“Once his presence is established in the bunker, his involvement in the criminal activity is confirmed. The evidence is inconsistent with any other rational conclusion.”

Three co-accused have previously been sentenced for their roles.

Joel August Maguet was described as one of the “governing minds” of the operation and received five years, three months in prison.

Ryan Kelly Grywacheski owned the property and allowed it to be used as the site for the operation. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months behind bars.

Patrick Richardson had the most unusual role, living full-time underground as the so-called caretaker. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

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