Brunswick, Georgia: Two men from Canada and the United Kingdom have been indicted on federal charges in the Southern District of Georgia alleging that an international operation used the dark web to distribute illegal drugs in the United States, with some of those drugs causing the deaths of two US -Marines led non-commissioned officers.
Thomas Michael Federuikaka “Canada1”, 59, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and Paul Anthony Nicholls, also known as “Nico Laeser,” 44, of Surrey, England, are charged with drug and money laundering offenses, said David H. Estes, US Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The charges expose Federuik and Nicholls to possible statutory penalties ranging from a minimum of 10 years in prison to life in prison, as well as fines of up to $10 million and at least five years of supervised release after serving a sentence.
“The number of drug overdose deaths, particularly fentanyl and its analogues, has reached an all-time high in the United States and every citizen of this country should be alarmed. The proliferation of this drug is being fueled in large part by an illegal pipeline of illegally imported drugs,” said US Attorney Estes. “This investigation aimed to trace this pipeline back to its source to cut off its flow into our country to protect our citizens from harm.”
Dubbed Operation Canada1, the investigation began in October 2017 with the separate deaths of two US Navy NCOs in Kingsland, Georgia, who were attributed to a fentanyl drug overdose. The source of the drugs was traced to a dark web vendor using Canadian postmarked packaging that read ‘East Van Eco Tours’, leading investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Calgary Police Service to to target dark web provider Canada1.
The indictment alleges that Federuik and Nicholls conspired to import drugs from countries such as China and Hungary. Then the alleged conspirators distributed these drugs through the dark web in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere in the United States using company names such as “East Van Eco Tours” and “Bridge City Consulting LLP”. The indictment further alleges that a shipment of those drugs packaged by the conspirators traveled from Canada to Kingsland, resulting in the deaths of BJT and TLB in October 2017.
Federuik and Nicholls have been taken into custody and are awaiting extradition proceedings to be taken to the Southern District of Georgia.
Criminal complaints contain only charges; The accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“The importation and distribution of illegal narcotics within the United States poses a significant threat not only to our local communities, but also to our nation’s military personnel and ultimately to our national security,” said lead Special Agent Thomas Cannizzo of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Southeast Field Office. “Upon initiating this investigation, NCIS quickly recognized the incredible benefit of our valued collaboration with US and international law enforcement partners. We are grateful for their extraordinary efforts to bring to justice those responsible for importing and distributing the illegal narcotics that led to the tragic overdose deaths of two U.S. sailors.”
“This poison ultimately resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and destroyed the lives of countless others,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Stopping drug traffickers takes a team, and I am proud of the work HSI and its law enforcement partners have done together to stop this devastating epidemic.”
“The opioid crisis is affecting countless families in our communities, even those who would not otherwise be classified as at-risk,” said Superintendent Richard Bergevin, officer in charge of the BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime Major Projects teams. “This investigation demonstrates the amazing work our teams are doing, using both traditional and innovative investigative techniques to combat the sale and spread of these deadly drugs.”
“The metrics on the opioid crisis are staggering,” said lead Special Agent Justin C. Fielder, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office. “We will continue to act decisively to curb the illegal distribution of opioids and other addictive prescription drugs and bring criminals to justice who endanger the health of the public.”
“Pills on the illicit drug market and dark web are often diluted with dangerous and deadly substances like fentanyl, as was the case in this investigation,” said Robert J. Murphy, the DEA Atlanta Field Division special agent in charge. “There is no quality control in the process, so there is a high possibility that users will end up with a lethal dose of fentanyl. The success of this investigation was made possible by the cooperation of all law enforcement agencies involved.”
“The goals of the US Postal Inspection Service are to preserve the integrity of the national postal system from criminal abuse, rid the mail of illegal drugs, and protect our communities,” said Juan A. Vargas, acting inspector of the US Postal Inspection Service Miami Division . “Postal inspectors will work with our law enforcement partners to pool resources and expertise to achieve a common goal, which is to combat the dangers of illegal and dangerous drug distribution and ensure perpetrators of such attempts are brought to justice.”
The case is being investigated in Canada by US Homeland Security Investigations, Vancouver; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and its Online Undercover Operations Unit and the Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit, Cybercrime Operations Group; Calgary Police Service; and the Canada Border Service Agency; in the UK, the National Delivery Unit provided support along with the Metropolitan Police and Staffordshire Police; and in the United States by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Homeland Security Investigations Savannah; the US Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations; the US Drug Enforcement Administration; and the US Postal Inspection Service with support from the US Marshals Service. The US Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provides significant support. The case is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant US Attorneys Frank M. Pennington II and E. Gregory Gilluly Jr.