Vernon man found guilty for basement meth and fentanyl lab | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon man found guilty for basement meth and fentanyl lab

Members of the RCMP Federal Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response team attend a residence in the 8000 block of Silver Star Road in Vernon as part of an investigation into a clandestine drug lab, Friday, March 31, 2017.
Image Credit: Vernon North Okanagan RCMP
March 31, 2021 - 7:00 AM

A Vernon man who moved his family into a motel for a week while he ran a mobile meth and fentanyl lab from his basement has been found guilty on two charges of producing a controlled substance.

Jason Martin Lukacs had argued that the evidence against him was purely circumstantial and the drug lab was nothing to do with him as he'd moved out of the property where it was found days beforehand.

But at the Vernon courthouse March 29, Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said much of Lukacs's evidence "rang hollow" and "defied all logic" and found the 37-year-old guilty on both counts.

Justice Donegan took three hours to read the abridged version of her judgement to the court, relaying endless amounts of minute details first heard during the lengthy five-week trial.

The judgement paints the picture of a complex trial where every move by the police during their search was put under the microscope for scrutiny. The court heard how hundreds of photographs and more than 200 pieces of evidence had been submitted during the trial.

The case dates back to March 2017 when the owner of the property Lukacs was renting on Silverstar Road entered the basement and discovered chemicals bubbling in a glass jar along with a strong smell of solvents.

"The surprise of my life," he'd told the court during the trial.

Police searched the property and found a makeshift laboratory had been set up in the basement of the house and in two trailers on the property.

A search of the upstairs living area of the house, where Lukacs lived with his partner and their two children, found a bucket of liquid fentanyl in the living room.

A chemistry encyclopedia bookmarked on a page about the chemical properties of fentanyl was found next to the couch. The book contained a handwritten note of measurements which was dated just a few weeks before.

The chemistry book also contained the fingerprints of Jeremy Czechowski, although Lukacs is the only person to have been charged in relation to the offence. The court heard how Czechowski had been investigated in 2014 for meth production and had 28 convictions.

Police also found a drawing of a purple monster done by one of Lukacs children which said, "Whatever you do, don't go in the basement.”

The court heard how the basement contained large amounts of chemicals to make methamphetamine and fentanyl and the walls and ceiling had been lined with black plastic. Boxes of glass chemistry equipment were found and a fan and rudimentary ventilation system had also been set up. The Justice said multiple bags of different chemicals used in the production of meth and fentanyl were discovered and residues of both drugs were later detected on multiple items of equipment. The drugs were also found in various stages of production and breathing apparatus was also discovered.

It's estimated the lab-produced roughly one kilogram of methamphetamine and 880 grams of fentanyl.

The Justice when into great detail listing individual pieces of equipment and ingredients and explaining how they were used in the production of the drugs. On several occasions, the Justice apologized for her pronunciation of the long and difficult scientific names of the various chemicals.

Along with the basement, drug labs were found in two trailers stored at Lukacs' home.

Following the discovery, Lukacs was questioned but not charged until June 2018.

The court heard how Lukacs had rented the secluded property on Silverstar Road in July 2016 for him and his partner and their two children.

His landlord also lived on the large property in a separate house connected by a long driveway. Things between the two hadn't gone well, and Lukacs had missed paying the rent multiple times.

Lukacs had argued because the tenancy wasn't going well, he'd moved out in the last week of March 2017 and given the place to a colleague named David Eng. Lukacs, who is a plumber, said he'd met Eng recently on a construction site. The court heard how Eng had 18 prior convictions, largely for robbery.

While not charged in relation to the bust, Eng's fingerprints were found on a glass chemist flash that contained traces of fentanyl.

Lukacs said his family was staying at the Super 8 motel in Vernon during that week for a holiday before then moving to Keremeos.

Lukacs' defence lawyer Tim Russell argued all the evidence against his client was purely circumstantial.

The defence lawyer had shown the court a TV show featuring the purple monster, in which the character says “don't go in the basement.”

While the chemistry involved in methamphetamine and fentanyl production is rather complicated, Lukacs' alibis were far less sophisticated.

The Justice said that under cross-examination Lukacs admitted he'd paid $3,675 to rent a lakeside property on Okanagan Landing Road at the same time he said he'd moved to Keremeos.

The justice questioned where he'd got the money from and highlighted multiple inaccuracies in his story, including the fact he couldn't remember the address of where he said he'd lived in Keremeos for a year.

"I find that the material points in his evidence defy all logic and common sense," Justice Donegan said. "Overall I was left with the distinct impression from his answers that he was, at times, making it up as he went along.”

The Justice went into what she described as "painstaking detail" about what had been left in the house and said it showed Lukacs had not moved out, but simply moved his family to the Super 8 for a week, while the lab was in use.

The court heard he knew his landlord was also away and it was "the perfect opportunity" to use the site as a clandestine mobile laboratory.

"These mobiles labs can be assembled, operated to produce illicit drugs and disassembled and moved to another location in a short time frame," she said.

The defence had argued a receipt from Home Depot following a trip made by Lukacs and Czechowski to buy supplies for work, and a drawing of a purple monster with “don’t go in the basement,” was not proof enough Lukacs was responsible for the lab.

Justice Donegan disagreed and referred to video footage of the lab.

“It’s difficult to convey verbally how compelling this evidence is,” she said.

Lukacs will be sentenced at a later date.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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