Even though they appear to have the evidence on camera, a B.C. judge threw out the case against a Calgary man accused of trafficking fentanyl.
Sandor Rigo was stopped for speeding by an RCMP officer in April 2018. The officer used a drug-sniffing dog to check the vehicle — which led him to search the car and detain Rigo. The RCMP then found 27,500 fentanyl pills, according to the court decision.
He then admits to the officer, saying “you got me with that fentanyl,” and called himself a mule.
He even appears to admit to drug trafficking and explained his motive, saying “I do it for money.”
He also explained the inner workings of the fentanyl trade in western Canada, indicating how the deadly pills are packaged in Vancouver before orders get placed in other provinces, and mules drive east with thousands of pills. But Rigo would only say so much, telling police he didn’t want to “end up somewhere in a ditch” for exposing the Asian gangsters above him.
WATCH: Drug trafficking case tossed despite apparent admission
Rigo said he received 10 cents per pill he transported from B.C. to Alberta, and that his contacts were “mostly kids, youngsters.”
They also referred to the pills as “berries.”
He also described how he picked up the drugs (from a parking lot in Vancouver) and where he delivers the drugs (his contacts tell him where to go) and when he got paid (after delivering the drugs).
But B.C. Justice Michael Brundrett found that the drug-sniffing dog didn’t provide enough indication for the officer to detain Rigo.
That means his Charter right to be secure against detainment, search and seizure was violated. Brundrett also said in his decision the officers violated Rigo’s rights to call a lawyer.
The violations mean the evidence compiled by police after they used the dog — including the drugs themselves and the Rigo’s statement — were excluded from evidence.
That’s a tough pill to swallow for those affected by the fentanyl trade — more than 8,000 people have died from fentanyl-related opioid overdoses in Canada since 2016.
But the Rigo’s statement itself shows a stark view of the fentanyl trade in B.C. — a growing concern in the province and across the country — and could still be used to investigate others involved.
Global News obtained video of Rigo’s interview with the officer, which shows that he refused to talk about many aspects of the drug trade, saying he feared for his life.
“I’ve nothing against you guys. You do your job, you know, but I’ll stop you right now. I can’t go any further,” he said.
“The further I go I don’t know if you’re capable of protecting me,” he said. “I’m not at liberty to do so, because I’m almost 60. I don’t want to end up somewhere in a ditch.”
When asked who his contacts were, he said “I can’t, I don’t know names,” and that everyone spoke in code. He only described them as “Asian.”
He also said that the police would have to arrest many gangsters in Vancouver before things would change.
“You guys are doing a good job,” he said. “Unfortunately you’re not doing enough to … stop something that you guys can’t reach.”
“I don’t even know who is really behind. It’s not one guy. Not one guy. Many.”
WATCH: How fentanyl gets into Canada
The statement also offered insight on how trafficking fentanyl occurs.
Rigo explained that he gets a call from a contact, and then he heads to Vancouver to pick up the pills or “berries.”
He said he was in communication with his contact every four hours — on a BlackBerry given to him by his contact. He’s directed where to go when he arrives in Calgary.
He also said that after the run-in with the police, he would likely be “cut off.”
“I’m gonna get cut off. And if I’m not here, they find somebody else,” he explained.
The fentanyl trade routes that Rigo described fit with investigations by Global News that point to Chinese organized crime cells involved in casino and real estate money laundering and underground banking in B.C.
These cells are directed from China and have kingpins in B.C., with connections to high-level gangsters in Calgary. Major shipments of chemical narcotics that arrive from China to Vancouver are sent east in vehicles.
In another major case recently botched by Canadian law enforcement — involving a Richmond, B.C. woman accused of trafficking 40,000 fentanyl pills — records show that in 2008, the woman was charged in Manitoba’s largest ever ecstasy bust, when she and a partner were allegedly caught carrying $20-million worth of the drug in a motor home.
Despite the charter violation in Rigo’s case, criminal lawyer Dino Bottos said police would be able to use the statement in a larger investigation into fentanyl trafficking.
“It can’t be used against any prosecution of the same individual,” Bottos explained.
While the video statement can’t “be used against any prosecution of the same individual,” there are other uses for the video.
“The police can still use that evidence to chase down other leads for other accused persons because the other accused person’s rights were not breached when this individual’s rights were breached.”
— with a file from Sam Cooper