Final guilty pleas entered stemming from 2018 drug bust in Kelowna

Guilty in 2018 drug bust

An investigation that stemmed from a 2017 shooting in Surrey and resulted in drug and weapons charges against three men in Kelowna has finally led to criminal convictions for all three men.

Back in the summer of 2018, the Surrey RCMP was working with the Kelowna and Vernon RCMP on an investigation into a shooting in Surrey the previous summer. A 62-year-old woman, an innocent bystander visiting from Ontario, was grazed by a bullet during the shooting.

At the time, police said the 2017 shooting was connected to the ongoing gang conflict in the Lower Mainland.

The investigation led police to an an apartment building on Kelowna's Academy Way, where officers' found evidence of a large drug trafficking operation in one of the units, which included drugs, guns and large amounts of cash. The apartment is located just south of the UBC Okanagan campus.

As a result, 15 separate charges were laid in February 2020 against Abd'l Malik Loubissi-Morris, Tien Roy Mai Dang, and Noah Didhra. The charges related to drugs and weapons offences alleged to have occurred in Kelowna, in addition to a charge of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, which allegedly occurred in Kelowna, Vernon and Oliver.

While the whereabouts of Didhra was not known when police first announced charges, and a warrant was issued for his arrest, he was arrested three days later.

Loubissi-Morris, meanwhile, was arrested and charged for the 2017 shooting in December 2019. According to the CBC, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and a firearms offence on that matter in March 2021 and was sentenced to 46 months jail, minus credit for time served.

The charges from the 2018 Kelowna raid have been winding their way through the Kelowna court system for several years, with the defence challenging the admissibility of several key pieces of the Crown's evidence, claiming the search of the residence was unlawful.

Three of these challenges were largely unsuccessful though, leading to Loubissi-Morris pleading guilty on Oct. 31, 2022 to one count of conspiracy to traffic controlled substances and one count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Mai Dang and Didhra continued two Charter challenges through to last month though, until both men also opted to instead take guilty pleas.

Mai Dang pleaded guilty on Jan. 17, 2023 to one count of conspiracy to traffic controlled substances. And last Monday, Didhra pleaded guilty to possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

None of the accused pleaded guilty to any of the weapons charges they were facing and the Crown is expected to stay the rest of their charges at the conclusion of sentencing as part of their plea deals.

Loubissi-Morris is scheduled to face sentencing in Kelowna on March 10, while both Mai Dang and Didhra are scheduled to be sentenced in Vancouver on April 6.

Mai Dang and Didhra remain out of custody on bail, while Loubissi-Morris is still serving his sentence on another conviction, according to Nathalie Houle, spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

Loubissi-Morris has faced several previous criminal charges stemming from incidents in Kelowna, Vernon and Cherryville dating back to 2016.

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