A Montreal man is facing a life sentence in the United States after pleading guilty to importing fentanyl into that country from his Canadian prison cell as part of a global trafficking organization.
The U.S. Department of Justice says the drugs trafficked by Jason Joey Berry, 39, led to 15 overdoses, four of which were fatal.
Berry pleaded guilty last Friday to conspiracy to import and distribute fentanyl, a crime U.S. officials say resulted in serious bodily injury and death.
U.S. authorities say Berry, along with another inmate, Daniel Vivas Ceron, arranged for the distribution of fentanyl and similar products from Canada and China into the United States. They did so while incarcerated at Drummond Institution, a medium security facility located in Drummondville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
Vivas Ceron, a Colombian national, pleaded guilty to various charges in 2019 and is also facing a life sentence.
“Jason Berry was part of a fentanyl trafficking ring that contributed to the opioid epidemic plaguing our communities,” Kenneth A. Polite Jr., assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a July 29 statement.
The conviction, he added, sends a "clear message" the department is committed to stopping the flow of deadly drugs and holding traffickers accountable.
The investigation, dubbed "Operation Denial," began in January 2015 in North Dakota, following the overdose death of a U.S. man, Bailey Henke, 18, of Grand Forks. Several people from Canada, China and the U.S. have been charged or sentenced since the operation began.
Berry was arrested by Canadian authorities in 2019 and extradited to North Dakota in 2021.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2023, and faces a mandatory minimum of life in prison.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2022.
The Canadian Press