A Vancouver father of four who began transporting large quantities of fentanyl and cocaine after work dried up in Alberta’s oilsands will spend more than five years in a federal prison.
Pedro Dwayne Kematch, 35, was sentenced on Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops after pleading guilty to two counts of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking.
Prior to his arrest, court heard, police became aware Kematch was part of a large-scale drug trafficking group transporting fentanyl and cocaine from B.C. to other provinces.
On Feb. 28, 2015, an Acura being driven by Kematch was pulled over for speeding near Kamloops. Inside, police found a backpack and a hidden compartment containing 9,950 fentanyl pills and 487 grams of cocaine — drugs with a potential street value of nearly $350,000.
Federal Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi said the fentanyl pills had been stamped to look like counterfeit Oxycontin.
“The accused was obviously a trusted member of this organization to be transporting such a large amount,” Varesi said. “The number of fentanyl pills seized is quite alarming. It’s of course now a national health crisis.”
Defence lawyer John Gustafson said Kematch had been supporting his family with his work in Alberta. When his partner went back to school, Gustafson said, Kematch had to find a new job closer to home in the Lower Mainland.
“He very quickly fell into a situation where he was quite desperate,” Gustafson said. “It’s these circumstances that led to him being involved in these events.”
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley stressed the danger posed by fentanyl in handing down his sentence.
“The impact on society that fentanyl has had is well-known,” he said. “In some sense, trafficking in fentanyl is akin to trafficking in a death sentence.”
Dley agreed to a five-and-a-half-year joint submission presented by Varesi and Gustafson.
In addition to the time behind bars, Kematch will also be barred for life from possessing firearms. He was also ordered to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database.
Dley also ordered the modified Acura forfeited to the Crown.