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Five-year prison term for 'serious' drug dealer

A Greater Victoria man who was the mastermind behind a sophisticated, ongoing, dial-a-dope enterprise has been sentenced to five years in prison. On Monday, B.C.
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A Greater Victoria man who was the mastermind behind a sophisticated, ongoing, dial-a-dope enterprise has been sentenced to five years in prison.

On Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brian MacKenzie said Zachary Scott Matheson trafficked in significant quantities of “serious drugs” that caused untold damage to individuals and society.

“Cocaine and crystal meth are especially insidious,” said MacKenzie. “The quantity of drugs here is significant.”

Matheson, a 40-year-old husband and father of two young children, was convicted in December of four counts of possession of cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking.

He and co-accused Ali Arash Ziaee were arrested on June 6, 2013, after a four-month police investigation, which included nightly surveillance of Ziaee. Police searched two homes in Langford and one in Saanich. At the time, police said the drugs they seized were worth an estimated $542,000.

Ziaee was arrested as he walked to an apartment building where the drugs were stashed, carrying two kilograms of cocaine he had brought from the Lower Mainland that day.

Matheson, who had come to meet Ziaee, entered the hallway and saw Ziaee in police custody. Matheson tried to escape but was arrested a few minutes later with the keys to the apartment where the drugs were stashed, and keys for two safes inside. The large safe contained significant amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy and some ammunition.

There’s no dispute the safe belonged to Matheson, said MacKenzie. It was returned to him in 2006 after it was seized in a drug investigation. A search of Matheson’s residence turned up a cellphone with weeks of text messages between Matheson and Ziaee and the tenancy agreement for the stash site.

Ziaee pleaded guilty to three charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking and was sentenced in 2016 to 30 months in jail.

At Matheson’s sentencing hearing, prosecutor Joshua Cramer asked for a six-year sentence. Defence lawyer Brad Hickford said a three-year sentence would be appropriate.

MacKenzie found it an aggravating factor at sentencing that Matheson was the mastermind of the operation and Ziaee was the underling. Ziaee ran the risk of doing daily street-level deals, while Matheson was able to insulate himself from drug dealing.

The judge noted that Ziaee sent texts to Matheson saying he would take care of the situation when Matheson was ripped off in a drug deal. Ziaee also texted Matheson that if it were not for him, “we wouldn’t have the chance for bigger stuff.”

MacKenzie also found the sophisticated nature of the drug trafficking to be an aggravating factor. Matheson used an encrypted phone and a dedicated work phone, and he used Ziaee as a middleman to bring cocaine from the Lower Mainland.

This was not a one-off endeavour, said MacKenzie. The number of empty kilogram bags in the apartment, the time invested in building a significant customer base and the trips to the mainland every two weeks “support the fact this was an ongoing, for-profit, commercial enterprise for significant financial gain.”

Matheson’s criminal record is not insignificant, said MacKenzie. He was convicted of trafficking in 1997 and 1998 and of possession for the purpose of trafficking in 2001.

The judge also considered Matheson’s solid work record in the Alberta oilfields over the past four years, while he’s been on bail, and a “poignant” letter from Matheson’s spouse, noting the hardships she will endure raising their two children on her own until he is released from custody.

“He has potential and his rehabilitation should not be lost sight of,” said MacKenzie.

ldickson@timescolonist.com