Nova Scotia

Former Mountie sentenced to 10 years for stealing, trafficking cocaine

Former Staff Sgt. Craig Robert Burnett, 51, was found guilty in April on all seven counts relating to a plan to steal 10 kilograms of cocaine and resell it. 

Craig Robert Burnett was convicted of stealing 10 kilograms of cocaine from police evidence locker to resell

Craig Robert Burnett, a former senior Nova Scotia Mountie convicted of stealing 10 kilograms of cocaine from an exhibit locker, arrives for sentencing at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Thursday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A judge repeatedly called the sentencing "a sad day" and "a remarkable fall from grace" for a former senior Nova Scotia Mountie convicted of stealing 10 kilograms of cocaine from a police evidence locker just before handing him a 10-year prison term.

Former Staff Sgt. Craig Robert Burnett, 51, was found guilty in April on all seven counts relating to a plan to steal the drugs and resell them.

In his decision Thursday, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice James Chipman said Burnett's offences were a serious breach of trust and he "exploited the very laws he was sworn to uphold."

"He made a conscious decision to steal the cocaine for financial gain," Chipman said.

At the time the drugs were stolen, Burnett was in charge of the national port enforcement team.

Chipman recommended Burnett be housed in a minimum-security prison for his own protection due to potential risks of being housed with other offenders in a medium to high-security prison.

Before he was sentenced, Burnett, who still maintains his innocence, addressed the court. 

"I've done good my entire life," he said. "This is a real bump. Acceptance is what I'm fighting with right now. I've got to learn to accept this."

Federal Crown prosecutors Joseph Selvaratnam and Glen Scheuer speak to reporters Thursday after former senior RCMP Staff Sgt. Craig Robert Burnett was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing 10 kilograms of cocaine from a police evidence locker and trafficking it. (Sherri Borden Colley/CBC)

During his 21-day trial, Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax heard Burnett removed cocaine that was slated to be destroyed from an evidence locker.

He provided the cocaine to an associate who delivered it to a third man for sale.

The three men split the proceeds. The amount of drugs, equivalent in weight to an automobile tire, and subsequently sold for about $300,000

Burnett used some of the money to buy a $17,500 BMW motorcycle, court heard. The bike was seized by police as part of their investigation.

During sentencing, Chipman ordered the motorcycle be forfeited to the Crown.

Burnett had served as an RCMP officer for about 20 years. He retired three years ago and receives a $3,200 monthly RCMP pension.

He has no savings and reported debts of over $130,000. 

Because of Burnett's inability to pay, the judge did not fine him $82,500 — the remainder of his share of the money derived from the theft and trafficking. 

The Crown recommended a sentence of 10 to 12 years while the defence recommended a sentence of four to seven years.

No remorse shown

Outside of court, federal Crown prosecutor Joseph Selvaratnam told reporters his sentencing recommendation would have been different if Burnett had shown remorse.

"The whole offence of trafficking cocaine in a situation where somebody is not an addict, not a user, not under the influence, is driven by greed," Selvaratnam said.

"And ultimately money was used to purchase items and pay off some bills. Now, he didn't live a lavish lifestyle as a result of this, but he used it also for some of his own benefit."

Burnett is a divorced father of two adult children and a first-time offender.

Several reference letters friends and family submitted to the court spoke to Burnett's character and described him as a quiet leader involved in community activities such as coaching.

Burnett was also ordered to provide a DNA sample for the national registry and not to own or possess firearms for the rest of his life.

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