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Kelowna dealer who operated international dark web drug ring denied appeal

The BC Court of Appeal denied James Nelson an appeal on his 11-year prison sentence
Cassie Bonthoux and James Nelson (Contributed/Facebook)

A Kelowna man convicted of operating an international drug ring on the dark web has been denied an appeal of his prison sentence by B.C.’s highest court.

James Nelson was sentenced to 11 years in prison in July 2020, for trafficking fentanyl and carfentanil on the dark web — a section of the internet not accessible to most users without the use of special software. The dark web is home to virtual black markets that sell drugs and other illicit materials.

Nelson initially faced eight separate drug-related charges alongside his common-law partner, Cassie Bonthoux, but charges against her charges were dropped following Nelson’s guilty plea.

In a unanimously quashed appeal to that sentence, Nelson argued to a three-judge BC Court of Appeal panel that given his lack of a prior criminal record, a seven-year prison sentence would have been more appropriate.

The court ruled the sentencing judge gave ample weight to Nelson’s status as a first-time offender, opting for a sentence five years fewer than the 16 years proposed by the Crown.

Nelson — under the username Fattuesday_13 — knowingly sold potentially deadly drugs between July 2016 and August 2017, on AlphaBay, a dark web marketplace. He advertised his operation as “one of the premium Fentanyl vendors in Western Canada.”

Police investigation through two separate purchases of his product tied Nelson to the Fattuesday_13 username. Nelson later admitted his use of the username.

Search warrants executed at Nelson’s home and Bonthoux’s Kelowna business after their arrest in August 2017, found a plethora of evidence, including envelopes of drugs ready to be sent to a variety of international locations.

Police seized 102.91 grams of carfentanil, 97 Canada Post shipping receipts and more than 19 Bitcoin, then valued at more than $83,000 — now worth almost $240,000 — from Nelson’s home. At Bonthoux’s business, police also found and seized transaction records and other materials related to Nelson’s drug trafficking.

“The appellant presented himself to his community as a law-abiding, responsible and respectable citizen and father, whose common-law wife, the co-accused, operated a small business in downtown Kelowna,” Justice Patrice Abrioux wrote in the court’s decision.

Abrioux stated Nelson’s presented “veneer of respectability” obscured a man who trafficked substances he knew could be lethal while possessing knowledge of the deadly opioid epidemic in B.C., caused in part by the very same drugs he was selling.

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