‘Bring the money’: Drug dealer says he paid off Hamilton cop

A drug dealer testified Thursday that his $20,000 monthly payments to Hamilton police officer Craig Ruthowsky meant he and his associates could roam free and sell drugs in Hamilton without having to look over their shoulders.

The dealer, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, returned to the witness box for the second day in a Toronto courtroom, providing more details about his alleged payments to the officer and what he got in return. 

He’s the Crown’s key witness in the case against the 17-year veteran of Hamilton police, who spent years in the guns and gangs unit.

“I would know when search warrants were happening, I would know who was informing on me,” the witness said. “I was pretty much allowed to sell drugs. I would get pulled over by the police, I would hand the phone out the window, and Craig would talk to them.”

Ruthowsky, 44, has pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Toronto to charges of bribery, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine, criminal breach of trust, and conspiring to traffic marijuana.

The dealer told the jury Thursday about the first time he met Ruthowsky, back in the summer of 2011. Ruthowsky, court heard, was one of the officers who took part in a raid on the dealer’s Caroline Street condo in downtown Hamilton, looking for drugs.

He said to bring the money with him the next time we meet.– Witness

After his arrest, Ruthowsky helped orchestrate the dealer’s release on a promise to appear in court, after he turned over some guns to police, court heard.

The dealer testified that he thought he could make a deal with Ruthowsky for information — because he believed a friend of his once had a similar deal with the cop, and because he had $30,000 in his apartment at the time of his arrest, but was only booked with about $11,000, he testified.

“Someone stole the rest of it … [so] I knew already I could probably do this,” he said.

Striking a deal

Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky, right, is seen in this court sketch with his lawyer, Greg Lafontaine. (Pam Davies)

Days after the dealer was released, Ruthowsky contacted him to return some car keys that had been seized during the raid, court heard. That’s when, the dealer says, he made his pitch to the cop, on behalf of himself and three others he worked with selling drugs.

“I told him I want the same arrangement as my friend before. He asked if I knew the price, I said, ‘Yeah, but there’s four of us,” the dealer testified. “He said, ‘There’s four of you, you know the price, the next time I see you, bring it with you.'”

The dealer said he understood the “price” was $5,000 a person.

“He said to bring the money with him the next time we meet.”

The two met shortly after, the dealer testified, in a Tim Hortons parking lot. 

“Did you bring anything with you?” assistant Crown attorney John Pollard asked the witness.

“Yeah,” he responded.

“What?” Pollard asked.

“$20,000 in cash,” he said.

“Where did that money come from?” Pollard asked.

“Drug dealing,” the witness said, deadpan.

Let-down at a drug bust

Later in their relationship, the dealer said, Ruthowsky told him that he needed to hand over information that would help him look like a legitimate police informant.

So the dealer decided to tell Ruthowsky about a marijuana grow op that he felt was ripping him off. He was even thinking of robbing the place himself to get back some money he was owed, he testified.

Police say thousands of pot plants were seized at a grow op on Green Mountain Road back in 2011. (Court exhibit)

“I just said [to my associates], ‘Why don’t we see if we can get the police to rob it for us?’ And that will be his bust, too,” he said.

The deal, the jury heard, was Ruthowsky would get his bust, and the dealer would walk away with half of the weed that police seized.

Court has previously heard that police did, in fact, raid a massive grow operation on Green Mountain Road in October  2011 — but there was no harvestable weed present at the time.

“He called me … he wanted me to come meet him,” the dealer said. “He told me there was some problems. He told me on the phone that there was no actual marijuana there, and he wanted me to come look.”

Previous police witnesses have testified about seeing the dealer at the grow op, looking around with Ruthowsky.

“He told me to bring a hat and a hoodie,” the dealer said. “He told me to keep my head down … lots of the police know me.”

“He said if anyone asked, I was RCMP.”

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