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B.C. judge rejects extradition of man accused of selling drugs that killed U.S. Navy sailors

A bag of fentanyl seized in a drug raid. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) A bag of fentanyl seized in a drug raid. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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The British Columbia Supreme Court has refused to extradite a West Vancouver man accused of using the dark web to sell fentanyl to two United States Navy sailors who died after using the drugs.

In a decision posted online this week, Justice David Crossin ruled the application from U.S. authorities to extradite Thomas Michael Federuik failed because the U.S. did not provide documents supporting his removal from Canada within the time limit allowed after Federuik was arrested in B.C. at the request of U.S. prosecutors.

Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, extradition applications must be completed within 60 days of the subject's arrest. Due to an administrative error, the U.S. missed the deadline to extradite Federuik by two days.

"From a practical perspective, the error appears insignificant, if not trivial," the judge said. However, the accused's Charter rights must be safeguarded to ensure "the public’s interest in constitutionally compliant legislation," he added.

Federuik was arrested by the RCMP's federal serious and organized crime unit on behalf of U.S. prosecutors in May 2022. Paul Anthony Nicholls, his co-accused on the charges of operating an international drug and money laundering scheme, was arrested in the United Kingdom the same day.

Both men were charged by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia in June 2022, nearly five years after two petty officers in the U.S. Navy died separately from overdoses in Kingsland, Ga.

The indictment accuses Federuik and Nicholls of conspiring to import the drugs from China and Hungary before selling them throughout the U.S. under the dark-web vendor names "East Van Eco Tours" and "Bridge City Consulting LLP."

Threat to U.S. 'national security'

Investigators allege Federuik used the online alias "Canada1" to sell the deadly drugs to sailors Brian Jerrell, 25, and Ty Bell, 26.

The "Canada1" alias was later linked to a residence in West Vancouver, where Mounties intercepted several packages of fentanyl that were ready to be shipped, according to an RCMP release announcing the seizure.

"The toxic fentanyl shipped from Canada to the two U.S. Navy petty officers in Kingsland, Ga., has been attributed to their deaths," the RCMP said.

Both Federuik and Nicholls had been arrested four years prior, when a "large quantity of fentanyl" was seized from a West Vancouver home, according to police.

"Investigators also discovered mail tracking slips that coincided with the fentanyl packaging material found by U.S. authorities," the release said. Nicholls, who had allegedly overstayed his visa, was immediately deported to the U.K. while the investigation continued, police said.

"The importation and distribution of illicit narcotics within the United States pose a significant threat not only to our local communities but also our nation's service members and ultimately our national security," special agent Thomas Cannizzo of the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service said in the indictment.

In rejecting the extradition request, the judge said the U.S. will have to restart the extradition process again if prosecutors choose to proceed with the case.

The charges against both men carry a minimum of 10 years to life in U.S. prison, along with fines of up to US$10 million and a minimum of five years of parole after release, according to the indictment.

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