News

$1M drug seizure shocks women

JOE WARMINGTON, QMI AGENCY

PORT HOPE - Saleem Khan already had a reputation for having a way with vulnerable women.

But the count is now up to four females who have found themselves imprisoned thanks to their connection to the 62-year-old Lothario with reported seducing skills.

He seemed so nice, said one of the latest to be allegedly duped by him.

"He was polite and a friendly," said Tina Hieronymus-Jacobi of Port Hope.

For six hours Saturday Tina, 70, and her 47-year-old daughter, Angela, were shocked to be taken down by gunpoint, locked up and investigated for heroin trafficking. "I realize the police had to do their jobs but it was traumatizing," said Tina.

She and her daughter were released once Port Hope Police and the RCMP understood what allegedly happened. However Khan, and a woman he describes as his 72-year-old ex-wife -- Madeline Montrose -- both residents of Cobourg, were charged with conspiring to import a controlled substance into Canada, possession for the purpose of trafficking heroin and heroin possession.

At a news conference Tuesday, Port Hope Acting Police Chief Emory Gilbert and RCMP Insp. Rick Penny displayed seven kilos of heroin and explained how it was concealed in a specially-made compartment under the rim of dishes.

It was not lost on anybody in Port Hope on a day that slain soldier Sgt. John Faught?s repatriated body travelled through Port Hope along the Highway of Heroes, this heroin came from the same country where Faught was gutlessly murdered by the Taliban. "Terrorism and organized crime" are the benefactors of heroin profits, said Gilbert, adding it's hard to believe Port Hope would find itself in the middle of that disgraceful circle of crime.

Police, happy to keep the deadly drugs off the street, estimate its value to be $1 million.

It's not exactly how they saw it all working out when Tina said she met this man at a single senior's club social meeting five months ago. "He said he was a retired airline pilot for Pakistan Airlines and that he liked art and music," she said.

Having similar interests, she invited him to her home for supper. He came over but insisted he would cook for her and her daughter. "He made us some beautiful curry. He's a very good cook."

The next week, she said, he came around the house again. "He brought me flowers and wine but I told him I was only interested in being his friend.

"He zeroed in on my daughter -- asking her out for lunch and buying her flowers."

Angela said she also told him she was not interested. But Tina admits they were both flattered: "He would drop by about once a week and it was nice to have some companionship," she said, adding she understands how gullible they both were.

If this rings a bell, perhaps you read a column I wrote in 2007 about Brighton's 38-year-old Deborah Kerr, who has two young children with Khan and travelled to Pakistan with him. The former Sunday school teacher was being held in a Pakistani prison charged with trafficking six kilos of heroin found in a bag next to her in the departure lounge. After more than a year in prison, upon appeal, Kerr was released with time served and returned to the Brighton area. Khan, who was acquitted of charges in Pakistan, also found his way back to the region where the two are said to still be in contact.

Kerr's sister, Sheri Gonyea, said "this guy changed who she is. She has self-esteem problems and is gullible."

Sheri said she liked him, too, but found it curious when "he told us he was working undercover for the RCMP in Pakistan" and "offered for my sister to help him with his RCMP duties and to help import carpets from Pakistan to Canada."

Police allege in the Port Hope case, he used sweet talking to gain the trust of the mom and daughter.

Both Tina and Angela thought he was harmless and decided to invite him for Christmas dinner -- complete with all of the trimmings. "He was very happy," she said. "He said he had never had a turkey dinner before."

"He is a charmer," said one detective.

After that dinner, Tina said, he mentioned a package coming by courier from Pakistan. "He said they were set of 142 dishes being sent by his family and that since he was divorced from his wife he didn't have a permanent address to send them too."

Tina is kicking herself for not catching on. "I know I should have suspected something but it seemed to make sense," she said, adding she felt an urge to help him. "He told us he had a heart operation."

Meanwhile the package, according to police, was actually coming from Kabul, Afghanistan.

It landed at Trudeau International in Montreal when an on-the-ball Canada Border Services Agency officer smelled a rat and opened the container. He called in the RCMP who immediately contacted Port Hope Acting Police Chief Emory Gilbert. Gilbert turned it over to his investigators, Sgt. Darren Strongman and Det. Mike Powell, who conducted a stake out at Tina's home -- the listed address.

First came delivery of the package and later Khan and Montrose allegedly came to pick it up. Before long, all were in handcuffs with Khan telling police "I am innocent" and that he was "just helping (Angela) move it."

Khan and Montrose remain in custody and will appear in court Wednesday by video. Meanwhile, Tina and Angela are at home licking their wounds.

"We had never been to jail or arrested before so this was horrible," said Tina. "I hope he stays in jail for a long time."

Whatever happens Tina said she will certainly be more careful before she ever gets too close to any smooth talking man she meets in the future at a senior's event.

joe. warmington@sun-media.ca