Two Canadians have been arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for distributing fentanyl and carfentanil through darknet markets. The Kelowna Royal Canadian Mounted Police worked with law enforcement agencies across Canada including the Calgary Police, as well as agencies in the United States such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and law enforcement in Australia, in an international investigation named Project E-Neophile. The two suspects arrested in British Columbia include a 35 year old man named James Nelson, and his spouse, a 28 year old woman named Cassie Bonthoux. The two have not yet been formally charged of any crimes.
“As many as 25 packages suspected of containing fentanyl or carfentanil, destined for Canadian, American, European and Australian cities, were intercepted by authorities…It’s likely prevented many deaths,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Jesse O’Donaghey told reporters. While police may believe that enforcing drug prohibition saves lives, evidence seems to suggest that not treating drug use as a criminal offense may do more to actually prevent disease and death associated with drug use. Earlier this year, in the City of Kelowna, an increase in fentanyl deaths was seen, but there were no deaths from fentanyl or fentanyl analogs that occurred at supervised injection sites and drug overdose prevention centers. Canadian law enforcement executed search warrants at a business the couple owned called Duke and Duchess Apparel in Kelowna, as well as at the couple’s private residence. City officials have posted the couple’s home with a “Do not occupy or enter” sign due to the property being involved in alleged illegal drug activity. Canadian law enforcement raided the couple’s clothing store on August 10th and thereafter the store was shut down, but it has since reopened.
The Project E-Neophile investigation began in September of last year. At that time the Canadian couple shipped packages of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs across North America, law enforcement allege. Law enforcement suspected the couple of importing large quantities of fentanyl and carfentanil from overseas. But then the shipments of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs stopped. The Canadian couple are alleged to have resumed darknet fentanyl and fentanyl analog sales in July of this year, when they are said to have registered on another darknet marketplace. Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized two firearms from the couple, as well as 68,000 US Dollars worth of Bitcoin. Canadian law enforcement also seized 120 grams of suspected fentanyl and carfentanil, in addition to the seizure of three kilograms of an unidentified substance.
“This may be one of the most significant and perhaps the most sophisticated fentanyl / carfentanil trafficking and exportation enterprises that has been uncovered in Canada to date,” Kelowna Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant of the Street Enforcement Unit, Alex Lynch said to reporters. While law enforcement may believe they have made a significant effort to reduce the availability of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, the amounts seized are insignificant compared to the total amount of fentanyl analogs produced and shipped from chemical manufacturers in China and elsewhere around the world.
The two accused Canadian darknet fentanyl dealers have since been released from custody and are due to appear in court on December 8th. Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said they have passed the couple’s customer information to the United States Department of Homeland Security that could enable drug seizures in five other cases. It has yet to be reported which two darknet marketplaces the Canadian couple are alleged to have been vendors. The alleged Chinese supplier of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs to the Canadian couple may have ended up causing the couple’s downfall. Last year the chemical supplier spoke to The Globe and Mail about how they package their fentanyl products to get passed customs, and even sent a screenshot which listed the address to the couple’s clothing store.