Campbell River's drug trade is being seen as lucrative.

Recent court case, arrests shine light on Campbell River’s “lucrative” drug trade

Drug traffickers coming from far and wide to take advantage of city’s seedy drug market

Campbell River is earning a reputation as a lucrative centre for the drug trade, thanks to a couple of recent cases handled by the justice system.

“The drug business in Campbell River is apparently very lucrative,” Judge Barbara Flewelling said in a Sept. 23 judgement on a Grande Prairie man, Tylor Michael James Derycke, 23, arrested and charged with selling heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and marijuana. “Mr. Derycke told the police that he made $20,000 a week. He also described the drug trade as a growing market in which the drug addict needs bigger and more frequent ‘hits.’”

Derycke was arrested May 20 in Campbell River and charged with possession of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

On Sept. 20 and on Sept. 23, the Campbell River Street Crime unit arrested four Lower Mainland-based men in connection with the drug trade. Gary Sandu and Rohit Kumar were arrested Sept. 23 after being found in possession of a large amount of drugs and cash during an interaction with the street crime unit. Jitesh Vagh and Karalo Nadeau were arrested Sept. 20 for possession for the purposes of trafficking

The four individuals are from the Lower Mainland and and their presence here was solely for the purposes of drug trafficking, Campbell River RCMP spokesperson Const. Sara Clark said.

During Sandu, Kumar, Vagh and Nadeau’s arrests, the seizure of drugs and cash in all arrests, including the seizure of a vehicle, involved:

  • approximately $65,000 cash
  • approximately 70 grams suspected crystal methamphetamine
  • approximately 45 grams of suspected crack cocaine
  • approximately 90 grams of suspected powder cocaine
  • approximately 80 grams of suspected fentanyl

The total street value of the seizures is approximately $150,000 and the individuals arrested are currently before the courts.

“Campbell River RCMP is very proud of the continued work done by our members to intercept the strong establishment of a drug trade,” Const. Sara Clark, media relations officer for Campbell River RCMP, said at the time. “All of the males arrested are from the Lower Mainland and their presence here was solely for the purposes of drug trafficking. Reducing the impact of drugs on our community is one of our detachment’s priorities.

Judge Flewelling said in her Sept. 23 judgement that Derycke was pulled over for a traffic stop after cutting the corner at an intersection during a left turn. The RCMP officer saw Derycke throw three plastic baggies out the passenger window onto the ground. The officer asked Derycke to step out of the vehicle and saw a number of $50 and $20 bills fall off the driver’s seat. Derycke was searched and found to have $180 in cash.

The three baggies were recovered and contained:

Twenty-eight spitballs weighting 6.19 grams. Three samples were taken from the spitballs and two of them were found to contain heroin and fentanyl and the third contained heroin, fentanyl, cocaine resin and acetyl fentanyl.

Five spitballs containing cocaine weight 1.38 grams. One sample was sent and contained cocaine.

Six spitballs weighing 1.75 grams. Two samples were taken and one contained cocaine and the second a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl.

Derycke’s hotel was searched and the police found a cell phone and a key card for a room at the Coast Discovery Inn. A number of calls came in on the cell phone consistent with a dial-a-dope operation.

While the police were in the room, a call came in with the caller asking if the listener could “spare a single of fentanyl for $20.” Another caller said, “I’ve got a sale for you – 140 hard and 60 soft.”

Judge Flewelling said she’s been advised that “hard” refers to crack cocaine and “soft” refers to cocaine.

Police then search the vehicle Derycke was in but was registered to his girlfriend, Maria Love. That search resulted in the seizure of more cash, marijuana, a 16-inch knife and a crowbar.

The car was seized and a search of the hotel room turned up more money and drug paraphernalia.

In total, from the car and the hotel room, the police seized 9.31 grams of heroin, more than 23 grams of cocaine, six bags of marijuana, mushrooms, prescription bottles with various pills and, in one case, three morphine pills. The police also located a nalozone kit which is used in the event of an overdose.

Derycke, meanwhile, suffered from heroin addiction himself and at the time of the arrest, was going through heroin withdrawal. After he gave his statement at the Campbell River RCMP detachment he requested medical assistance and was taken to emergency at Campbell River Hospital.

After treatment, he was being escorted back to the RCMP cruiser to be taken back to the detachment when he pulled away from the Mountie and took off. He was found four minutes later and further charged with escaping from lawful custody.

Derycke was paid to come to Campbell River from Grande Prairie, Alberta.

When asked why Campbell River, Judge Flewelling said that Derycke said, “They wanted me here…this town makes money…”

“This is an organized operation,” the judge said. “The main ‘boss’ has the primary cell phone and calls relating to the individuals wanting to purchase drugs go to the primary cell phone and are then forwarded to the lower level traffickers such as Mr. Derycke who are on shift or working at the time.”

The judge described Derycke as a “lower level or middle level trafficker in a sophisticated operation.”

“As is so often the case,” Judge Flewelling said, “it is the low to mid-level trafficker that is arrested, whereas the individuals at the higher level seem to elude capture.”

Derycke was sentenced to one year in jail for the trafficking charge plus 30 days for escaping lawful custody. He was given credit at 1.5-to-one for pre-sentence custody of 126 days polus 63 days enhanced credit for a totla of 189 days, the judge said. That means 176 new days to serve in custody.

For the offence of driving while prohibited, he was fined $500 and given a one-year driving prohibition.

Derycke’s sentence was influenced by the current fentanyl overdose crisis and the judge took it into consideration when handing down Derycke’s sentence. The judge also said that the sentence should reflect that this is a professional drug operation and not the actions of a street level drug addict.

Derycke was selling drugs for profit and although an addict himself and in need of the money to buy the drugs to fuel his habit, he was also “motivated by a desire to make money and the need to be somebody, to feel important,” Judge Flewelling said.

“The current fentanyl crisis is so well known that Mr. Derycke must have known that there was, at minimum, a risk that the drugs he was selling were laced with fentanyl,” Judge Flewelling said. “He denied that the heroin he was selling contained fentanyl but I note that one of the callers to his cell phone asked for fentanyl. During his statement to the police he acknowledged that he was aware that fentanyl is killing many people.”

The judge said courts across the country have made many references over the years to the “scourge” of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine and the human cost and devastation that those drugs cause.

“In determining where in the range of a fit sentence Mr. Derycke would fall,” Judge Flewelling said. “I am entitled to consider the dramatic rise in fentanyl-related overdose dearths and the public health emergency that has been declared in British Columbia and other provinces.

“In the context of this case, the sentencing objectives of general and specific deterrence must be given primary consideration and a clear message sent that drug traffickers cannot be willfully blind to the nature and consequences of the drugs they are selling. I am also of the view that a sentence in a smaller community such as Campbell River has a greater impact in deterring others who are recruited by drug trafficking operations to sell drugs here.”

The judge said that drug traffickers can expect to be sentenced to a period of incarceration, even for a first offence, like in Derycke’s case. When a trafficker is a part of an organized and sophisticated operation, as opposed to an addict selling small quantities of drugs at the street level purely to support his or her own addiction, the sentence should be adjusted upwards to reflect the need for general deterrence, the judge said.