Local man sentenced to jail time

Ronald Charles Learning, born in 1983, was sentenced in Regina Provincial Court to eight years and 204 days

A Vernon man’s role in one of Saskatchewan’s largest drug busts has resulted in a significant jail sentence.

Ronald Charles Learning, born in 1983, was sentenced in Regina Provincial Court to eight years and 204 days in jail after being found guilty of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Learning was arrested in his vehicle at a red light in October 2011 in Salmon Arm as the result of a lengthy police investigation into the transportation of cocaine from California into Canada via the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border near the town of Val Marie, Sask.

A criminal-turned-police agent, associated with the trafficking, was given 30 kilograms of a cocaine substitute which included nine grams of actual cocaine and a tracking device.

Court heard how Learning met the agent in an abandoned farmyard a few miles north of the border, took control of the sham cocaine and gave packages of pills and $10,000 cash to the agent for delivery to the U.S.

The agent observed that the pills and cash had been hidden in secret compartments in the van, and that the sham cocaine was later placed in the compartments.

As Learning made his way to B.C., police decided he should be arrested in Salmon Arm. As his van was stopped at a red light, officers surrounded the van. Learning was the driver and sole occupant.

The vehicle was seized and searched, and the sham cocaine was found hidden in the two fake compartments.

The cocaine Learning was expected to be carrying would have been worth between $1.2 and $2.3 million, depending on how it was to be broken down and sold.

Learning is also slated to go to trial in Vernon Supreme Court in October on possession of firearms offences related to an arrest in January 2013 that started with a seizure of a large amount of heroin at the Vancouver Airport.