Historic fentanyl seizure: International mail system leads Mounties, CBSA to Richmond drug smuggler
VANCOUVER -- A Richmond man has been given jail time after an RCMP and CBSA investigation involving the mail system that lead to one of the biggest fentanyl busts in Canadian history.
During a joint press conference Thursday, officials showed off some of the items seized from Jaroslaw Orzel’s Richmond home in 2017.
That included 9.3 kilograms of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, as well as heroin and MDMA. Along with the drugs, officers seized a handgun, a semi-automatic rifle with ammunition and $195,415 in Canadian cash.
Orzel first came to the Canada Border Services Agency’s attention in 2017 during an investigation into suspicious fentanyl imports which used the mail and courier system to transport drugs.
Orzel was arrested in August 2017 when RCMP executed a warrant at his Richmond home.
Police say Orzel had been using post office boxes across the lower mainland to import drugs from China. That included rental PO Boxes from companies like UPS and FedEx, according to RCMP.
The investigation also included looking into activity on the dark web. Orzel had ties to 2.19 Bitcoins, which is worth to about $20,566 in Canadian dollars.
“There’s been a paradigm shift. Before, to be a multi-million dollar trafficker, you needed a cartel, control of various ports of entry,” said Chief Supt. Keith Finn, the RCMP’s deputy criminal operations officer.
“Now, you need access to the internet and a post office and you can be working alone.”
The size of the seizure is significant, and officials involved in the investigation say it’s fortunate the drugs didn’t end up on the streets.
“The amount of fentanyl I described is enough to produce millions of fatal doses. We’ll never know how many lives were saved,” said Yvette-Monique Gray, the CBSA’s director of the Pacific Region Intelligence and Enforcement Branch.
Jaroslaw Orzel was charged with 24 counts in relation to the investigation.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purposes of trafficking, and one count of possession of a restricted firearm with accessible ammunition.
In November he was sentenced to 12 years for drug charges and three years on weapons charges.