Windsor man convicted of conspiracy to import fentanyl from China

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After a seven-day trial it took a jury only about an hour of deliberations on Thursday to convict a Windsor man of conspiring to import fentanyl from China for the purpose of trafficking.

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A sentencing hearing for Mark John Ryn before Superior Court Justice Paul Howard will be scheduled next month. Ryn, 31, was convicted on twin counts of conspiracy to import fentanyl and possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking.

Ryn and his then-partner Beth Ann Vandelinder were arrested at the latter’s home in 2017 after the Canada Border Services Agency intercepted a fentanyl package in Vancouver that had originated in China, and the RCMP were granted court permission to complete a “controlled delivery” to the intended recipient.

Vandelinder was the prosecution’s main witness at Ryn’s trial, which began with jury selection on June 6. She pleaded guilty last fall to the same two charges and was sentenced in January.

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Her sentencing judge, Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance, called it “a crime of utmost gravity” but handed her an unusually lenient conditional sentence due to what the judge described as “exceptional circumstances,” including Vandelinder’s own “crippling addiction” to fentanyl at the time of the crime and her willingness to co-operate with authorities and testify against the co-accused.

Jurors in the Ryn trial heard from Vandelinder that there had been a number of prior fentanyl shipments mailed to Windsor from China. Police, prosecutors and health authorities have repeatedly warned about the devastating impacts on the community from the illegal sales and use of fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid many times more potent than morphine.

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Ryn also took the witness stand in his own defense, but the short period of deliberations by the jury before rendering twin guilty verdicts indicates the jurors “found the evidence (against him) overwhelming,” defense lawyer Ken Marley told the Star.

The prosecution’s case relied heavily on cellphone communications between Ryn and Vandelinder, messages that also pointed to the latter’s drug addiction.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, China is a primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail, and it’s the main source of fentanyl trafficked into the US, including via Canada.

Despite her guilty plea, co-operation with police and the Crown and lack of a criminal record, the prosecution in Vandelinder’s case, citing the need for a strong message from the court of denunciation and deterrence to others, had still been seeking a penitentiary term of three years.

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Contacted Friday by the Star, federal drug prosecutor Richard Pollock wouldn’t divulge what punishment the Crown will be seeking for Ryn. Marley said Pollock will likely be seeking a penitentiary term “somewhere in the five-year range.” But the defence, he said, will ask for a similar sentence to what was handed Vandelinder.

“Parity of sentencing is one of the important sentencing principles (in the Canadian justice system),” Marley told the Star.

While not commenting on what the prosecution might seek for punishment, Pollock told the Star: “The Supreme Court has held that fentanyl is a lethal source of unspeakable harm to Canadians.”

Vandelinder’s two-year conditional sentence to be served in the community includes being homebound for the first 12 months with some exceptions, for such things as work, education and counselling, with a second year to include an overnight curfew. She is then on probation for two years during which she must abstain from drug and alcohol use.

Following news of the case and last year’s trial, Vandelinder was terminated from her job at the time.

There have been a number of recent community emergency alerts issued for Windsor by local health authorities following spikes in fentanyl overdoses and deaths.

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