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16-year sentence for Coquitlam fentanyl trafficker

Deterrence cited by judge as reason for hefty sentence

The danger the drug fentanyl poses toward society and the need for denunciation and deterrence were among the reasons a B.C. judged sentenced a Coquitlam man to 16 years in prison for trafficking and possession of fentanyl, firearms and proceeds of crime.

Friday, Provincial Court Judge E. Jamieson presented his reasons for sentencing Andrew Edwin Robert Leach for his role in a year-long trafficking conspiracy involving substantial amounts of fentanyl as well Xanax and cocaine.

Leach, 35, was the head of a drug line that trafficked in fentanyl knowing the danger it posed to users because small amounts can be fatal, the judge noted in his sentencing report.

“The variety of drugs sold on the drug line is an aggravating fact by itself, showing the breadth of the trafficking organization. But fentanyl is recognized as being significantly more dangerous than the other drugs,” Jamieson wrote, noting that between January 2017 and October 2017, fentanyl was present in over 83% of illicit overdose deaths in B.C.

“The wiretap transcript shows that Mr. Leach was aware of people dying from fentanyl. It is of little significance that single, individual fentanyl pills sold by Mr. Leach’s drug line contain slightly less than the 2 mg dose considered fatal, particularly when the range of 1.3 to 1.9 mg amounts in each pill show such a large production variance of 0.6 mg.”

Although there was no evidence that fentanyl trafficked by Leach caused a fatal overdose, “In my view, however, this does not significantly lessen the aggravating fact that Mr. Leach was trafficking in a drug at the heart of the health crisis.”

Coquitlam RCMP’s Drug and Organized Crime Section spent a year between June 29, 2016 and June 28, 2017 investigating the operation. There were 40 drug buys and telephone and text communications were intercepted after police obtained a wiretap authorization in May, 2017, which allowed them to install recording devices in vehicles associated with Leach and at a Coquitlam apartment.

In addition to the arrest of Leach, a number of his associates were also charged, as well as his mother, sister and nephew. But charges against the family members were stayed once Leach was sentenced.

In the admission of facts, it was noted police executed search warrants at three Coquitlam apartments and found more than 11,000 fentanyl pills, 1,500 Xanax pills, 12.17 grams of cocaine, 44.33 grams of methamphetamine, $750,000 in cash and several prohibited fire arms, including a loaded Cobray M-111/9 mm and two loaded Glock pistols.

Only on the first buy of June 29, 2016 did Leach have direct hand-to-hand contact with the undercover buyers but admitted to the buyer that on occasion he had three women working for him.

In December, 2017 Leach pleaded guilty to seven offences, including trafficking and firearms offences but would only admit to possessing fentanyl found at his mother’s home on Cortes Avenue, with a street value of between $30,000 and $70,500.

The large number of weapons found and the haphazard way they were stored at his mother’s condo, threats made to a customer and caught via wire tap were all aggravating factors in the case, the judge stated. However, Leach’s early guilty plea saved time and court resources and an admission of responsibility and an apology for the harm done to his community were all mitigating factors in the sentencing.

“I was a drug dealer, selling misery,” Leach was reported to have written in his statement to the court.

The judge sentenced Leach to 12 years for possession of fentanyl and trafficking and six years for gun offences, plus another two years for posession of a non-restricted weapon while being prohibited from doing so by a weapons restrction, for a total of 20 years, less four years in accordance with the totality principal for a total of 16 years. The judge also said Leach should serve one half of his drug sentence before being eligible for parole.

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