Guelph police say they’re baffled by suggestion Coffee Time drug suspect received a tip-off letter
GUELPH — A local businessperson facing multiple drug charges says he received a letter months before his arrest that purported to be from a city police officer and asking him for $5,000 in exchange for ending the drug probe against him.
“I have the letter,” said Raed (Ray) Abdallnor Mammo, 43, the owner of Coffee Time, referring to the correspondence.
Mammo and his 42-year-old spouse, Fadia Faraq Habbi, were each charged with four counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking last month. Another 39-year-old Ariss man, Anthony Brent Pilon, faces four counts of trafficking in connection with the same case.
The charges were laid after officers seized narcotics from an Evans Drive residence and Coffee Time on Kortright Road on Feb. 17. The police reported seizing drugs worth a combined street value of $88,150 in those raids. Since that time, police have charged two additional suspects in the case. On March 12, the police service announced that Michael Fraser, 31, of Guelph, was charged with three counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, two counts of breach of recognizance and driving under suspension. Giacamo Belcastro, 31, also a Guelph resident, is charged with trafficking in a controlled substance.
In a phone interview this month, Mammo said he received the letter in August and believed it was authored by a city police officer. The alleged letter demanded $5,000 and stated that he would face charges if he didn’t pay up, Mammo said.
“I kept it a secret,” said Mammo, who directed the Mercury to his lawyer when the newspaper asked to obtain or to read the letter or a copy of it. The Mercury asked Mammo about the letter after receiving an anonymous email making allegations about the case shortly after Mammo’s arrest.
The Mercury has not been able to confirm the existence of the letter. There is nothing to link such a letter to the officers in the police investigation that led to charges. .
After directing the newspaper to his lawyer, Mammo ended the interview and calls to him to obtain further comment have not been returned.
His lawyer, Gerald Punnett, said he had no knowledge of the letter and would not offer further comment on the case.
According to city police, its drug and intelligence unit began the probe that resulted in the charges against Mammo and the other suspects in the case in January. During the investigation, police say, undercover officers purchased various amounts of cocaine.
Guelph Police spokesperson Sgt. Doug Pflug said he couldn’t say whether there had been any police tips about the alleged letter.
He said that without seeing the letter that it isn’t standard operating behaviour for a city police officer.
“That sounds highly out of standard practice,” Pflug said. “If we’re doing drug busts on people, we are not going to send them a letter ahead of time and tell them to stop for $5,000.”
Pflug said he couldn’t speculate as to who might be the author of the alleged letter.
An anonymous email sent to the Mercury following the drug bust said the letter was dropped off at Coffee Time one evening in November. It claimed the letter was followed by a phone call asking an employee to retrieve this letter, without opening it and give it to the owner.
Mammo didn’t make any payment, the email stated.
In the phone interview, Mammo said he’s not guilty of the charges and will contest them at trial.
Mammo and Habbi are next in court on March 26 and Pilon is to appear on April 9. Belcastro remains in custody until his next court appearance on March 26, while Fraser was released on $2,500 bail and is to return March 29.
Thana Dharmarajah is a Mercury staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org