Testifying in his own defence, a Yellowknife man accused of importing a form of fentanyl into the city admitted to ordering the drug online but denied selling the powerful opioid once it arrived in his mailbox weeks later.
Darcy Oake, 24, testified Friday that he bought 10 grams of furanylfentanyl – a synthesized “designer drug” considered to be around five times less potent than fentanyl – over the “dark web” in late October of 2016. Almost a month later, on the morning of Nov. 23, 2016, the shipment made its way to Oake’s Borden Drive mailbox, the accused said.
He overdosed within 30 minutes of opening up the package.
“I ended up doing way too much,” said Oake, testifying he collapsed on the street while walking his dog shortly after snorting the mail-ordered furanylfentanyl.
Oake’s decision to take the stand came during the second week of his judge-alone trial.
He pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking furanylfentanyl on Aug. 19, but not guilty to importing and possessing the opioid for the purpose of trafficking. Oake is also charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm after a woman – a former close friend – allegedly overdosed from furanylfentanyl provided to her by the accused. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Oake’s alleged victim testified she was with him when he ordered drugs online from China in the fall of 2016. After snorting a line of what she believed to be fentanyl in Oake’s garage on Nov. 23, 2016 – the day the drug arrived in Yellowknife – the woman said she woke up the next day unable to move, leading to a days-long hospital stay.
Oake testified the furanylfentanyl he ordered – using the bitcoin cryptocurrency – was for himself and no one else. He denied the woman was with him when he ordered the furanylfentanyl, which, he said, was advertised as being 10 times less powerful than fentanyl.
At the time, Oake said he was a full-blown addict, abusing fentanyl pills, disguised as oxycodone, along with alcohol, cocaine and crack cocaine almost daily since 2013.
“I was buying dope whenever I could,” he told the court.
Oake said he ordered the drug online to avoid paying higher prices on the street.
Oake, who is accused of importing furanylfentanyl, said he believed the drug was coming from somewhere in Canada. The prosecution has said all along that Oake knowingly ordered the dangerous opioid from Hong Kong, based on shipping numbers attached to a package with Oake’s name and address on it found at the accused’s home.
Oake threatens to walk off the stand
Oake came close to halting his testimony Friday over apparent fears for his safety and the safety of his parents.
While under cross-examination, prosecutor Duane Praught rattled off the names of individuals identified in text messages extracted from Oake’s phone. After Oake paused, his lawyer Peter Harte interjected. Harte told NWT Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood that if Oake was “required to incriminate others,” he would elect not to testify and invite any convictions that followed based on evidence heard at trial.
Naming names, said Harte, could be enormously problematic for Oake, who fears for the well-being of himself and his parents.
Praught redirected his line of questioning after Smallwood wondered aloud how relevant the names of the people were to the case.
Oake admitted to giving furanylfentanyl to the alleged victim, along with two others, but rejected Praught’s suggestion he was actively trying to sell and profit off the drug. Oake said he doesn’t believe the woman overdosed. The defence has suggested a combination of anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills resulted in the woman being sent to hospital.
Despite overdosing himself on furanylfentanyl twice in the span of two days, Praught said Oake – knowing full well of the dangers of the drug – “rolled the dice” when he laid out a line for his friend on Nov. 23, 2016.
Oake said he didn’t want to give her the furanylfentanyl at first, but gave in after she “repeatedly nagged” him for it.
Buying drugs online: encryption, ease and uncertainty
Following Oake’s admission that he purchased drugs over the Internet, the accused’s testimony revealed details about the relative ease – and uncertainty – of ordering illicit drugs online, describing a virtual shopping experience not unlike browsing on Amazon.com.
Oake, who said he began looking up how to buy drugs on the dark web in the fall of 2016, agreed with Praught that clicking the order button was taking a “leap of faith” in terms of what he’d receive. Oake told the court he initially purchased Xanax – a brand of anti-anxiety medication – before spotting the surprisingly cheap furanylfentanyl for sale.
“I thought, ‘what the hell, I’ll add it in the cart with the Xanax,’” said Oake, testifying he bought a pack of inexpensive cigarettes with the bitcoin he had left over. To complete the purchase, Oake said he followed a list of instructions, downloading torrents and encryption software to finalize the exchange.
The RCMP, which has shifted strategies to tackle an evolving internet-based illicit drug market, was involved in 30 ongoing investigations relating to online drug trafficking as of March, according to a recent report.
A significant spike in suspected fentanyl overdoses led RCMP to Oake’s home on Nov. 25, 2016, the same day he overdosed for the second time in just days. Donning hazmat suits and self-contained breathing units, members of the RCMP Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response (CLEAR) team descended on the property after a bag containing 59 per cent pure furanylfentanyl was found on Oake’s bedroom dresser.
The trial has been adjourned to Sept. 16. In the meantime, the Crown will determine whether or not it will call rebuttal evidence.