10 years sought in drug bust

Almost three and a half years after a West Kelowna auto body shop and home were raided by police and an illicit counterfeit prescription pill production operation was busted, the man responsible is finally facing sentencing.

While Leslie McCulloch pleaded guilty to production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking way back in February of 2017, the case has dragged on, with McCulloch even attempting to take back his plea in January 2018.

The case was delayed even further last January, when McCulloch skipped out on his bail. Police found McCulloch at a restaurant in Langley three months later, and he's remained in custody since.

On Thursday, Crown prosecutor Oren Bick and McCulloch's defence counsel Marshall Putnam submitted a joint sentencing position to the court, asking for ten years imprisonment, minus 651 days of enhanced credit for time already spent in custody. As part of the joint submission, an agreed statement of facts was read out in court, bringing to light many details about the case that have yet to be made public.

On March 2, 2016 police raided McCulloch's Candy and Chrome Customs on Auburn Road, just across the street from Constable Neil Bruce Middle school, and officers in hazmat suits removed bags of powder from the business. At the same time, officers raided Leslie McCulloch's home at 760 Petterson Road.

The raids were the culmination of a two-month police investigation, after border agents intercepted an industrial-style “V mixer," used to mix powders, that had been shipped from Hong Kong to McCulloch's home on Petterson Road in December 2015. A tracking device was installed on the mixer, and police surveilled McCulloch's actions throughout February 2016, leading to the raids in March.

Police found 938 fake prescription pills and $35,600 in cash under McCulloch's bed, along with money transfer receipts documenting $15,500 that had been transferred to someone in China in 2015. Twelve one-ounce gold bars were found in the home's living room.

In an upstairs loft at Candy and Chrome Customs, police found a well-used pill press with 40 grams of acetylfentanyl powder of an unknown purity in it, along with a shop vac filled with various pills and powders inside. Recipes for different pills were written directly on the loft's wall.

Inside a nearby shipping container, police also found 406 grams of acetylfentanyl, as powder and in pill-form. The purity of the powder and pills ranged from roughly 1.2 – 3.1 per cent acetylfentanyl.

Acetylfentanyl is an analogue of fentanyl, that unlike fentanyl, has no legal medical applications. There is little scientific research on the substance, and it first began showing up in street drugs in B.C. in 2015. The pills found at McCulloch's house also contained W-18, an extremely potent drug that little is known about. W-18 wasn't a scheduled as an illegal drug until June 2016.

The pills found by police had been pressed to look like 10 mg and 80 mg Oxycontin. 

At the time of his arrest, McCulloch was on parole after serving a 4.5-year sentence for trafficking cocaine. In parole documents, he was described as a “middleman who transported drugs for the Hell's Angels.” He had been released on parole on that offence in July 2014.

On Thursday, McCulloch's lawyer Marshall Putnam told Justice Marguerite Shaw that McCulloch had become addicted to painkillers in May 2015 after injuring his thumb, which led to him to incur a “street loan” to feed his habit. Putnam said he turned to the illicit drug trafficking as a way to pay his mounting bills.

While Justice Shaw said she had “no real concerns” over the joint sentencing submission of ten years, she deferred her final decision to a later date, as she wanted to read over all the material before handing down a sentence.

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