Charges against an accused steroids dealer have been dropped after a judge ruled he was illegally detained by police.
Vincent Gemmiti, 34, of Burlington faced seven counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking after police seized 10,000 steroid pills and other drugs with an estimated street value of $60,000 in November 2007.
But all charges were recently dismissed because Gemmiti wasn’t told why he was being investigated or given the chance to call a lawyer.
Gemmiti was linked to one of the largest steroids cases in Canada — the April 2008 discovery of $2 million in steroids and counterfeit prescription drugs at a house and a storage unit in Kitchener.
Waterloo Regional Police stumbled on Gemmiti while investigating a complaint about a suspected drunk driver.
He was questioned in the driveway of a house on Black Cherry Drive in Waterloo, but there was no smell of alcohol or other signs of impairment.
Officers were suspicious of his behaviour, however, and didn’t immediately let him go.
Meanwhile, they got information over their radio that Gemmiti faced steroid trafficking charges in New Brunswick, and asked him if he had any drugs with him.
When he was allowed to leave a few minutes later, Gemmiti was followed by surveillance officers.
Police watched him go to a drugstore, pace outside while talking on his cellphone and eventually leave the store with a box.
Gemmiti then called a cab, got in it with the box and returned to the house on Black Cherry Drive where he had been questioned.
Police arrested Gemmiti and found steroids — which speed muscle growth and are used for performance enhancement in bodybuilding and other sports — in the box.
Only then was he advised of his rights.
Justice Gerry Taylor ruled it was a “significant, although not an egregious” violation of Gemmiti’s constitutional rights when he was briefly detained even though police had no grounds to believe he was impaired.
He said Gemmiti should have been told and given the opportunity to call a lawyer when police continued to hold him because of their suspicions about steroids.
As a result, Taylor excluded the seized drugs as evidence and the prosecution was left with no case against him.
Gemmiti was arrested at the home of Fernando Reis, 48, a self-taught chemist who ran a booming business — Azorian World Order — selling steroids and counterfeit prescription drugs online and to health and nutrition businesses.
Reis used the profits from his illegal drug operation to buy five houses, two of which were forfeited as the proceeds of crime.
Arrested several months after Gemmiti, he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of trafficking and importing drugs, and was sentenced last year to the equivalent of 22 months in jail.