Kelowna fentanyl and carfentanil trafficker gets 11 years in prison; first sentence of its kind in Canada - InfoNews

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Kelowna fentanyl and carfentanil trafficker gets 11 years in prison; first sentence of its kind in Canada

Cassie Bonthoux and James Nelson in an undated photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Facebook
July 21, 2020 - 5:45 PM

A Kelowna man who used the dark web to run a sophisticated opioid trafficking operation was sentenced to 11 years behind bars today, July 21.

James Nelson, 38, is the first person to be sentenced for trafficking of fentanyl and carfentanil on the dark web in Canada, and Justice Barry Davies said that the "sophistication in methodology and execution" in addition to the apparent disregard for those dying in 2017, as the opioid crisis picked up speed in B.C., were ample cause for the 16-year sentence recommended by the Crown. 

Ultimately, however, he landed on 11 years for the carfentanil charge and four years for the fentanyl charge — to be served concurrently — saying that the relatively early guilty plea and Nelson’s own, costly opioid addiction were mitigating factors.

More relevant, however, were his efforts to get clean, his general remorsefulness and his prospects for rehabilitation. Nelson, the judge said, also has a young son who “he won’t have a normal relationship with for many years.”

“I sincerely hope this will not preclude you from a productive life,” the judge said as he passed down the sentence, and Nelson’s loved ones broke down in tears. He will start his sentence today.

It’s been nearly three years since an investigation involving the Calgary Police Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and local Mounties culminated in the raid of Nelson’s  Black Mountain home and the Duke & Duchess clothing store he owned in downtown Kelowna.

They’d followed the trail he left online by advertising and selling drugs on the dark web, to anonymous buyers he never met, using the nickname FatTuesday_13. A person would place an order online, and they would ship it out through Canada Post, tucked into a magazine.

In that August 2017 raid, police seized 1.52 grams of fentanyl and 102.91 grams of carfentanil destined for Canadian, American, European and Australian cities.

Today the court heard that raid also yielded 93 receipts from Canada post in one month, $84,000 in bitcoin and the drugs carried a street value as high as $400,000.

It all lined up with the intelligence collected from police in the preceding months and it was one of the largest seizures of those drugs and money at the time.

The court heard Nelson and his girlfriend Cassie Bonthoux had a $10,000 a month drug addiction that they were feeding through dealing.

It seemed to be a major deviation from the life he started. Nelson was raised by adoptive parents. He grew up in Alberta before moving to Kelowna with his family so his younger brother could access the resources he needed to help with a medical condition.

He died before Nelson finished high school, and that’s when things went south for him. He started hanging out with a rougher crowd and dabbling in drugs.

At some point he moved back to Alberta and where he met his partner, Bonthoux. In 2012 they had a child and in June 2013 they started up the clothing store.

Nelson worked on the rigs, and used drugs but eventually lost the job due to his opioid use.

When he was arrested he referred to himself as a “functional opioid addict” but the judge said an ambulance was called to his home in December 2015 for a suspected overdose after he consumed fentanyl and heroin.

The judge said after his arrest, his five-year-old son was taken by the Ministry of Child and Family Development and put in the care of Nelson’s parents.

Nelson started drug counselling and took parenting skills courses then, the judge said. He got a job in Alberta working on oil rigs and he’s a well-liked member of the team. He’s also supported his family and paid their legal bills since the arrest.  

Nelson was also ordered to give a DNA sample, is prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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