West Kelowna fentanyl dealer faces 10 year sentence - InfoNews

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West Kelowna fentanyl dealer faces 10 year sentence

Leslie John McCulloch and Rebekka Rae White were both charged after police raided McCulloch's West Kelowna business and found drugs including fentanyl being readied for distribution. Charges against White were eventually dropped.
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July 11, 2019 - 5:11 PM

KELOWNA - A West Kelowna man who was busted in 2016 for a counterfeit drug operation was fuelled by "addiction and debt," says his defence lawyer Marshall Putnam.

Leslie McCulloch, 41, was in court today, June 11, for a sentencing hearing on charges of production and possession of a controlled substance and posession for the purpose of trafficking —  he pleaded guilty at an earlier date.

During the hearing, the court was told his foray into the underworld came on the heels of a May 2015 workplace injury, when his thumb was ripped off. He was prescribed pain-killers and when they weren't enough, he looked elsewhere.

"That's when he turned to illicit substances to offset his pain," said Putnam. "He started to take on more debt, and then he got an unverifiable street loan... addiction and debt fuelled his actions."

Those actions could result in a significant prison sentence.

In a joint submission, Crown counsel Oren Bick and Putnam suggested a total sentence of 10 years, less time served. McCulloch has already been incarcerated for 434 days, and he was credited time-and-a-half. That amounts to 651 days of credit and, ultimately, eight and a half years more time behind bars. He also faces a firearms ban and is required to give a DNA sample.

McCulloch had been the subject of a two month-long surveillance operation in 2016 that was started when he was caught picking up a drug mixing machine.

On March 2, 2016, Mounties executed a search warrant at McCulloch's business, Kandy and Krome Kustoms, which was in the 2600-block of Auburn Crescent and his Petterson Road home. There they found score sheets, an estimated 500 'fake' Percocet and OxyContin pills, acetylfentanyl, two industrial pill presses capable of making 2,500 pills per hour and a chemical mixer. Police also found suspected acetylfentanyl in a shop vacuum. In total there was almost "a pound of raw material on hand," Bick said. 

"There are two aggravating factors in this case," Bick said. "Under the (Controlled Drugs and Substance Act), it's the closeness to a school (Const. Neil Bruce middle school). Also he was on parole."

McCulloch's criminal record is limited but serious, Bick added. 

"It's not the biggest clandestine lab busted in Kelowna, but not peanuts either," he said. "It’s a large amount that could produce a lot of pills."

Bick told the court that acetylfentanyl is one-sixth as potent as fentanyl, but at the time of the offense, dealers were making big money from counterfeiting pharmaceuticals and McCulloch was trying to cash in. Just one of the pills found at the shop could fetch a price of $10 apiece wholesale or $30 on the street.

"The offense is as grave as a fentanyl dealer," said Bick. "It’s a harmful substance and it puts the life of its users at real risk."

While the notoriety of the case is that it's one of the first fentanyl busts in the region, McCulloch and the way he's comported himself in the wake of the arrest has also garnered some attention.

 Although he tried to retract his guilty plea, he was set to be sentenced on Jan. 28. But when he was supposed to make an appearance in court a week prior on Jan. 21, he didn't show.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for McCulloch on Jan. 22.  A hearing on that breach will be scheduled in the days ahead.

 He is believed to have pleaded guilty in a deal to get his past girlfriend free of charges.

The judge reserved a final decision on sentencing. 

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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