Two Abbotsford brothers who were sentenced late last year for trafficking fentanyl and carfentanil, which they mixed into other substances using a mortar and pestle, have lost a bid to appeal their jail terms.
A B.C. Court of Appeals panel ruled today (Wednesday) that the sentences for Karan-Jit and Sarabjit Mann were not “demonstrably unfit.”
Both pleaded guilty in June 2017 to trafficking fentanyl, and Sarabjit also pleaded guilty to trafficking carfentanil.
Both received four-year sentences for the fentanyl offences.
Sarabjit, 23, also received a concurrent (to be served at the same time) five-year sentence for the carfentanil offences and a two-year consecutive (to be served after) term for a firearms offence.
Sarabjit argued during the appeal hearing that the judge erred in imposing a longer sentence for the carfentanil counts because the Crown failed to prove that he was aware of the presence of carfentanil in the substances he sold.
He also argued that the judge was wrong in imposing a consecutive sentence for the firearms offence.
As well, both brothers submitted that the sentences imposed upon them were longer than they should have been for first-time offenders trafficking in fentanyl.
But the three-judge panel disagreed on all issues, saying the Manns knew that they were trafficking fentanyl to “vulnerable drug users.”
“Sarabjit knowingly trafficked fentanyl and took the risk that the composition of the drugs was unknown. A higher sentence for the carfentanil offences accords with the elevated gravity of those offences,” the judges’ written decision states.
The court documents indicate that the brothers operated a dial-a-dope operation in January and February 2017, at a time when the fentanyl-related overdose crisis had become well-known.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, and carfentanil is 100 times more potent that fentanyl.
Karan-Jit, 20, and Sarabjit were arrested after they sold “potentially lethal doses of fentanyl” to undercover officers posing as clients wanting to purchase fentanyl, the court documents state.
Drug warrants executed at their home turned up quantities of fentanyl, carfentanil, powder cocaine and crack cocaine, as well as $4,900 cash, cellphones, and a loaded .38 calibre revolver.
The court documents indicate that the dial-a-dope operation was “small and unsophisticated” and deliveries were made only during the day. Sarabjit, who the documents indicate was battling his own addiction to fentanyl, appeared to take a more active role than his brother.
At the time of the offences, the pair lived with their parents and extended family.
“The drugs were mixed and packaged for street-level sale from this residence,” the court documents state. “A surveillance camera was in place that was monitored from the living room. A guard dog warning sign was posted on the front window of the residence.”
Expert testimony at the brothers’ sentencing hearing indicated that fentanyl used in illicit drugs is typically imported from China and then cut with cheaper substances, such as caffeine, for street-level distribution.
The Mann brothers were found to have used a mortar and pestle to mix fentanyl and its analogues with a cutting agent.
But RCMP Sgt. Eric Boechler testified that this can result in an uneven distribution of fentanyl and the creation of “hot spots” – a concentration of fentanyl in a particular dose that can increase the risk of overdose death.
He testified that using a mortar and pestle to mix fentanyl is “extremely dangerous” and “one of the most primitive and negligent mixing methods” he has seen in the illicit drug market.
Boechler testified that there is strong financial incentive for traffickers to use fentanyl in the production of counterfeit heroin and oxycodone.
He said fentanyl produced in China can be purchased for about $12,500 per kilogram, which can then be used to create 100 kilograms of counterfeit heroin. That 100 kilograms could conceivably be sold for $7 million, he said.
Testimony in court indicated that the doses prepared for sale by the Mann brothers had concentrations of fentanyl as high as 14 per cent, “when anything about two per cent is likely to cause an overdose.”
Karanjit was also sentenced to a 12-month jail term in relation to an incident in April 2016 in which he was among three teens charged after an Abbotsford family called 911, saying they had received a death threat.
He was sentenced on charges of uttering threats and occupying a vehicle in which there was a firearm.