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The Family: New details emerge about alleged leader of 500-person organized crime network in Calgary

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2020-12-02 Meghan Grant
a person posing for the camera: Lawrence Orubor has been charged with drug trafficking and organized crime-related offences. Police allege he led The Family, a gang of dealers who sold small quantities to mainly homeless drug addicts. © Facebook Lawrence Orubor has been charged with drug trafficking and organized crime-related offences. Police allege he led The Family, a gang of dealers who sold small quantities to mainly homeless drug addicts.

The man alleged to lead a 500-person criminal organization involved in selling drugs and terrorizing a vulnerable community with violence, including a homicide, was once called a career criminal with a horrendous record by a Calgary judge.

New details about massive drug distribution network The Family and alleged leader Lawrence Orubor have been uncovered by CBC News through court documents, online records, and interviews with people who are either close to the investigation or work with clients of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, where much of the criminal activity took place.

Since Orubor's arrest, staff at the DI, as well as police, have recorded a "notable decrease of violent incidents" in the downtown area, police say. 

Orubor, 52, who lives in Calgary's suburbs, has a criminal history dating back more than 30 years in both B.C. and Alberta, with at least 40 convictions on his record.

He now faces seven new charges connected to Operation Bloodline, the six-month police investigation into The Family. 

Two weeks ago, he was released on bail.

Homicide connection

The charges faced by Orubor are rare: instructing drug trafficking and violent offences for a criminal organization.

"[Those charges] requires a great deal of investigative rigour to put that before the courts," said Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik at Tuesday's police commission meeting.

If the violence hadn't gotten so intense, perhaps The Family would still be operating under the radar, selling mostly single doses of drugs to addicted, homeless Calgarians.

For months, The Family was responsible for the "vast majority of violence in the downtown core" according to Tawfik, who said the group is also implicated in a homicide. 

CPS wouldn't confirm which homicide was connected to The Family because it speaks to the evidence before the courts but a spokesperson for the service said charges have been laid in connection with the killing.

'Made his whole living off $20 rocks'

Orubor has at least three aliases and a 30-year history of criminal activity in both Lower Mainland, British Columbia, and Calgary, according to court records. 

"He's the guy that preys on the down-and-outs," said one CPS officer, whom CBC is not identifying because he's not authorized to speak on the matter. 

"He's made his whole living off $20 to $40 rocks."

Another officer who investigated Orubor more than a decade ago, when he was under investigation by CPS for similar allegations, said Orubor targets underlings who are willing to "work just for the dope" and that he "makes big money" off of the system.

While several arrests tied to The Family were made in early November, investigators didn't simply target everyone buying and selling drugs.

There were different tiers of sellers, some who did it to support their own habit, and others who were more predatory, willing to commit acts of violence on behalf of the gang.

Calgary police tried to differentiate between the two, working closely with social services to line up supports for those victimized by The Family rather than charging everyone involved. 

Orubor a 'career criminal', judge says

Court records show Orubor's criminal history dates back to the 1990s, although there appears to be a break in convictions since 2005.

In the 1990s, Orubor faced several sets of charges in B.C., including in Chilliwack, Surrey and New Westminster.

He was jailed in that province for drug trafficking, using counterfeit money, fraud and possessing a stolen credit card. 

In 2007, a Calgary judge called Orubor a "career criminal" with a "horrendous" record including more than 40 convictions, some of which were for violent offences like aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

At the time, Orubor had unsuccessfully appealed a sentence of one year in jail after he was convicted of dangerous driving for speeding through a playground zone at 60 km/h, blowing through a stop sign, T-boning car and causing the other driver, who was battling cancer at the time, to suffer serious injuries including multiple rib fractures.

No contact order with convicted killer

Search warrants were executed in early November on two vehicles and four homes, one of which court records show is Orubor's.

In those raids, police say they seized thousands of grams of drugs including meth, fentanyl, crack and GHB.

At the time, Staff Sgt. Jody Gash said the drugs were distributed in small quantities "across this vast network, never staying in one place for long."

Two weeks ago, provincial court Judge John Bascom granted Orubor bail, allowing him to return to his southeast home with conditions including that he abide by an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and surrender his passport.

Orubor has retained defence lawyer Dick Cairns, a senior, well-respected lawyer who practises in both British Columbia and Alberta and has represented high-profile alleged gangsters including members of the Hells Angels and alleged FOB gang leader Nick Chan, whom he successfully defended in 2016 against charges of first-degree murder and instructing a criminal organization.

Other bail conditions include a no-contact order with 20 people, some of whom are listed in court documents as alleged co-conspirators and many who have faced prior charges related to violent offences, including Natalie Pasqua, who was previously convicted of manslaughter.

Orubor is also banned from going near the DI or the Sheldon Chumir, the location of a supervised injection site.

Police operation made 'huge difference' to DI safety

Staff at the DI say after the arrests, violence is noticeably down. Everyone from staff to clients feels safer. 

"It's such a huge difference, such a huge difference," says Elise, who works at the DI. CBC News has agreed to only identify her by her first name.

She said The Family's set-up on Dermot Baldwin Way, outside the DI, was predatory. 

"By hanging out outside … they were fully taking advantage of people who are dealing with dependency issues on drugs and alcohol and they were targeting them," says Elise.

She says the violence got so bad, some clients would ask to be let out the north doors rather than the ones leading to Dermot Baldwin Way.

CBC News contacted both Cairns and the prosecutor assigned to the case. Both declined to comment as the matter is still before the courts.

Orubor will be back in court this month. 

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