WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg gang leader has been sentenced to five years in prison after being recorded on a jailhouse phone directing street drug operations and meting out violent discipline to an unruly underling on the outside.
In addition to a cocaine-trafficking charge, Michael Balingit, 25, admitted Monday to directing others within a criminal organization to conduct crimes on its behalf.
It’s believed to be the first time a member of the 334 MOB (Most Organized Brothers) Squad has been found guilty of a criminal organization-related charge.
Balingit was among the main targets of a Winnipeg police operation focused on busting a cellphone “dial a dealer” operation.
Crown attorney Jason Clouston told court the case against Balingit took off after he made 86 telephone calls from inside jail while he was awaiting trial on charges of selling drugs to an undercover officer.
Clouston says Balingit apparently didn’t heed a sign warning inmates that their calls were being recorded.
Court was told he directed much of the day-to-day operation of the gang’s drug business through a 16-year-old girl, whom he apparently found to be the “most reliable and most malleable” of his associates.
Balingit was caught on tape threatening some people with violence and arranging to have a relative beat up one of the dealers.
Defence lawyer Eric Wach said his client is a former car thief whose lost a leg at 15 when he crashed into a tree while being chased by police.
Balingit has pledged to use his prison time to finish school and learn a trade, Wach said.