Father of drug trafficking gang The Family pleads guilty to role in 'parasitic' group

Lawrence Orubor pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking offence and received a 10-year sentence Thursday. Orubor was the head of an organized crime group called The Family.  (Facebook - image credit)
Lawrence Orubor pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking offence and received a 10-year sentence Thursday. Orubor was the head of an organized crime group called The Family. (Facebook - image credit)

A Calgary drug lord who led a 40-year criminal organization called "The Family" pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking offence Thursday and was handed a 10-year sentence.

Lawrence Orubor, 55, led a double life, residing in the suburbs with his wife and children while simultaneously running a massive drug trafficking operation that focused on sales in the city's downtown — primarily around the Drop-In Centre and along the CTrain line.

"Mr. Orubor systematically exploited weak and vulnerable people. He did this for greed. He used violence to conduct this parasitic business," prosecutor Levi Cammack told Justice Keith Yamauchi.

Orubor admitted to leading The Family — a 500-member criminal organization — for a five-year period, from 2015 to 2020, according to an agreed statement of facts read aloud by Cammack as part of the guilty plea Thursday.

In sentencing Orubor to 10 years in prison, a term agreed on by the Crown and defence lawyer Ryan Persad, Justice Yamauchi noted the offender's "role in the underbelly of society."

The Family is known for selling mostly single doses of drugs to vulnerable, addicted, homeless Calgarians.

The Calgary Police Service (CPS) says The Family is connected to a homicide in the city but hasn't said which one because it speaks to the evidence before the courts.

Operation Bloodline

As part of the agreed facts document, Orubor admitted he instructed his drug runners to use violence to protect The Family's turf.

The investigation, called Operation Bloodline, kicked off more than three years ago after an employee at the Calgary Remand Centre contacted police about a phone number that had been called by more than 1,000 people detained between 2015 and 2020.

Some of the calls were made by inmates who had openly acknowledged their affiliation with The Family, according to the document.

CPS then tracked the phone number to Orubor's home in the southeast community of Bonavista Downs, where he lived with his wife and children.

'40-year criminal organization'

Police set up surveillance and wiretaps.

"The intercepted communications revealed Mr. Orubor's leadership role in a 40-year criminal organization named The Family," according to the agreed statement of facts.

"He distributed fentanyl and other illegal drugs at the wholesale level and used threats and violence to protect The Family's territorial business interests."

Police identified dozens of drug addicted and often homeless "runners" who controlled the supply of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine to the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

Investigators also learned Orubor had three other homes he paid for: a girls' house, a boys' house and a stash house.

'Family first'

The girls' and boys' houses provided lodging, showers and laundry facilities "to The Family's indigent street-level drug dealers."

After executing search warrants on the four properties, police seized more than four kilograms of drugs as well as more than $60,000 in cash.

Officers also found drug ledgers, scales and weapons, including a Taser, cans of bear spray, an axe, a sword, crossbows, BB guns, knives and firearm ammunition.

"Family first," was written on a wall in the stash house.

Orubor's underlings called him 'Dad'

The intercepted calls revealed Orubor's subordinates referred to him as "Dad."

Orubor has a criminal history dating back more than 30 years in both British Columbia and Alberta.

The intercepted calls revealed Orubor's "exploitation of the drug dependence and indebtedness of his runners and his use of violence to keep them obedient and loyal."

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.

Earlier this year, Orubor was convicted of human trafficking following a trial but has yet to be sentenced for that crime.

Speaking outside the courtroom after the plea, Det. Mike Sushelnitsky, the lead detective, said police tried to protect those at the bottom of the gang's hierarchy.

"The Calgary Police Service has, from this investigation, tried to advocate for the safety of the vulnerable sector by identifying those who were manipulating and controlling them, and will continue to do so in the future," said Sushelnitsky after proceedings concluded Thursday.