Alec Wong was just 21 when he was charged with trafficking fentanyl in a downtown Vancouver dial-a-dope operation in 2017.Dylan Friesen was 36 when he was arrested in Maple Ridge in 2017 and also charged with selling fentanyl at the street level.Both men pleaded guilty to trafficking after getting caught in stings where undercover officers posing as drug users made purchases from them.And both were recently sentenced — Wong this week in Vancouver Provincial Court and Friesen in April in New Westminster, although the reasons for his sentence were only released this Wednesday.Provincial Court Judge Greg Rideout handed Wong a one-year term, noting that he was selling drugs for profit and not because he was an addict.He rejected a defence argument that there were “exceptional circumstances” in Wong’s life that made a suspended sentence appropriate.Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Ker gave Friesen a day in jail after crediting him 201 days for time served.She noted that Friesen was homeless and addicted when he was selling the deadly opioid to other addicts.She accepted defence arguments that Friesen’s story had “exceptional circumstances,” because he had completely turned his life around, beat his addiction, and is now working in a recovery program.Wong was a suspect in a Vancouver police investigation that started in the fall of 2016. Officers got the cell number for his dial-a-dope line and called twice in February 2017, making two purchases of “heroin” for $100 total.“On both occasions, the accused was the driver and sole occupant of the motor vehicle,” Rideout noted. “The heroin that was sold on both occasions was analyzed as containing heroin, fentanyl, and other ingredients.”The Crown asked for a 22-month sentence, noting that the drugs were sold to the officers after Wong had been arrested in an unrelated case for selling cocaine.The defence said a suspended sentence with strict conditions would be appropriate because of the “exceptional circumstances” of Wong’s background — his father abandoned the family and he had no guidance from his mother.
Ryan Vena (right) and Jon Lowewen walk the back alleys of the Downtown Eastside while trying to help combat the fentanyl overdose problem in Vancouver, BC, December, 21, 2016.
RICHARD LAM /
Wong started smoking and selling marijuana in Grade 10, then moved on to selling cocaine before getting expelled in Grade 12.After going to Hong Kong in October 2017, Wong learned there was an arrest warrant out for him in the fentanyl case. He returned to Vancouver to face the charges.He has since gotten a job and abandoned his involvement in the drug trade. He wrote a letter of apology to the court.“I don’t have an excuse as to why I was selling fentanyl,” Wong wrote. “I knew how harmful the drug is and yet I was still selling it. I feel remorseful for my actions. … It kills people, breaks apart families, and poisons the community we live in.”Rideout accepted Wong’s remorse and said he had good hopes for rehabilitation. But he said Wong’s circumstances were not “exceptional” and that a year in prison is “a fit and just sentence in this case.”Like Wong, Friesen sold drugs to undercover police twice in January 2017.Related
“Mr. Friesen, a street-level trafficker addicted to fentanyl and opioids himself, sold three small baggies of fentanyl to undercover officers,” Ker said. “In total, Mr. Friesen sold 0.2 grams of powder containing fentanyl. The total amount of money Mr. Friesen obtained was $80.”The Crown asked for a three-year sentence.His lawyer said that because of the “exceptional circumstances,” a suspended sentence and probation would be most appropriate.Like the Vancouver police, the RCMP began its investigation into street-level trafficking in Maple Ridge in the fall of 2016. At the time, Friesen was living in an area homeless shelter. He was arrested in March and remained in jail until getting bail in August 2017.Ker pointed to Friesen’s background — he was raised in a violent home with an alcoholic father. By 13, Friesen was drinking. By 17, he was using cocaine.While working in a mine near Campbell River, he fractured a vertebrae in 2012. He was prescribed hydromorphone — beginning an addiction that plagued him for years.“His addiction deepened and by 2017, he was taking his opioids intravenously. He took whatever was available, including fentanyl,” Ker said.Friesen said his 2017 arrest “is the day his life was saved.”He was released into a recovery program and has maintained his sobriety ever since.“You are to be commended for the concrete steps you have taken to turn your life around. Few know better the danger and lethal nature of fentanyl than a recovering addict like yourself,” Ker said.“An appropriate sentence in Mr. Friesen’s case is essentially time served to be followed by probation.”firstname.lastname@example.org: vancouversun.com/tag/real-scooptwitter.com/kbolan