A West Vancouver man and his British associate have been charged in Georgia with fentanyl trafficking, money laundering and other counts related to the 2017 overdose deaths of two friends who were in the US navy.
And the RCMP in BC says it played a key role in the international investigation.
Thomas Michael Federuik, 59, was picked up on a provisional arrest warrant on May 24, the RCMP said in a news release. He has already made two appearances in BC Supreme Court.
And Paul Anthony Nicholls, who was deported from BC in 2017, was arrested in Surrey, England, in the same case.
US Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Jerrell, 25, was found dead at a home in Kingsland, Georgia, on Oct. 11, 2017. Four days later, his close friend, Petty Officer 2nd Class Ty Bell, 26, was found dead in the same house. Fentanyl that had been mailed from Canada killed both of them.
Shortly afterwards, the RCMP’s federal serious and organized crime unit in BC launched a joint organized crime investigation with American authorities into an alleged international dark web drug trafficking vendor named Canada1.
Cpl. Arash Seyed said Thursday that RCMP linked Canada1 to a West Van home and officers intercepted several packages that were being shipped by Canada1, and determined the content to be fentanyl.
Federuik and Nicholls, 44, were first arrested at the West Van house in March 2018, Seyed said.
Police “seized a large quantity of fentanyl,” Seyed said. “Investigators also discovered mail tracking slips that coincided with the fentanyl packaging material found by US authorities. Having overstayed his visa, Nicholls was immediately deported to the UK, while the investigation continued.”
The US indictment alleges that Federuik and Nicholls conspired to import drugs from several countries including China and Hungary, then distributed those drugs over the dark web using business names including “East Van Eco Tours” and “Bridge City Consulting LLP.” Neither company is registered in BC
The indictment, a copy of which was obtained by Postmedia, also alleges that a shipment of those drugs packaged by the conspirators traveled from Canada to Kingsland, Georgia, resulting in the deaths of the two navy petty officers.
The two accused also attempted “to conduct financial transactions knowing that the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of a specified unlawful activity, that is, importation and distribution of controlled substances,” the indictment said.
The pair “did use virtual currency systems aka cryptocurrency, including, but not limited to, Bitcoin as well as United States and Canadian currency in the drug transactions,” it also said.
In February 1998, Federuik was charged with possession of a counterfeiting instrument in Burnaby. There was no outcome of the case was available in the provincial court data base. In 2011, he was handed a two-year conditional sentence for convictions of theft of something valued at over $5,000 and fraud. He was also ordered to pay $97,000 restitution.
He also has an on-going lawsuit against a former employee for wrongful dismissal from his job as a construction site supervisor.
Seyed said “the dark web continues to harbor toxic opioid traffickers.” The unit’s cybercrime operations group “continues to relentlessly pursue and dismantle toxic drug pipelines that operate within the digital maze of anonymity.”
Supt. Richard Bergevin, who heads federal policing in BC, said “every single life claimed by the toxic opioid crisis leaves an untold number of loved ones in perpetual grief and anguish.”
“We share their pain, and remain steadfast in our commitment to protecting communities within and beyond our borders from the deadly pipeline of toxic opioids,” he said.
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