Four men tied to a drug trafficking ring that stretched from the Fraser Valley to northern B.C. have been sentenced to prison.
The leader of the operation, Clayton Archie Eheler of Chilliwack, will serve a nine-year stint behind bars, while his associate Mathew Jordan Thiessen was sentenced to six years.
Two other men, Kyle Harrower and Andrew Vithna Va, were given 18-month and three-year sentences, respectively.
The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU) said in a statement Wednesday that two more sentences are expected later this week.
“This was a complex, multi-jurisdictional investigation affecting several areas throughout the province,” Sgt. Brenda Winpenny said.
“Illegal drugs, more specifically fentanyl, is an extremely dangerous drug that is proving to have widespread consequences in our province. This investigation is a testament to the dedication and tenacity of our investigators to hold those who deal in drugs and are involved in criminal activity to account and brought to justice.”
The investigation into the operation dates back to November 2014, when officers with the CFSEU executed a search warrant at a Chilliwack apartment occupied by Eheler and Thiessen.
Inside, police found eight kilograms of powder cocaine, a kilogram of crack cocaine, a large cocaine press, cutting agent and packaging materials — all of which were seized.
Two more Chilliwack properties were searched in February 2015, and police seized several additional kilograms of marijuana, crystal meth, cocaine and fentanyl, along with cutting agents, weapons, ammunition and cash. Four men and a woman were arrested.
At the time, the CFSEU said the combined street value of all the drugs seized in the November and February searches was more than $5.1 million.
In May 2015, CFSEU officers observed a meeting outside Fort St. John involving a man linked to the Chilliwack operation. At the time, officers said that man had travelled to the northern B.C. community on behalf of the drug trafficking ring to “restock their distributors.”
The man and two others were arrested and police seized 1.8 kg of powdered cocaine, 1.6 kg of crack cocaine, and just under $138,000 in cash.
Charges of unlawfully possessing a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking were approved against Eheler and Thiessen in December 2015. Another Chilliwack man, Raymond Morrissey, was also charged at the time.
Harrower was charged with five counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking in February 2016. Four others with connections to the operation — Dana Mikael Hendrick Schaper-Kotter, Jordan Anthony Ramos, Darcy Horvath and Lucas Benjamin Thiessen — were also charged.
Va was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking in May 2016 along with Le Hoang-Duy Vo.
The trials for Eheler and Thiessen, in particular, took years to wind their way through the courts. The pair had to wait until June 2018 to be convicted.
A provincial B.C. court judge rejected a January 2019 attempt to stay the charges against Eheler and Thiessen, whose lawyers argued the length of time to get to trial violated their Charter rights.
Judge Richard Browning called the case “particularly complex,” which justified the lengthy process.