JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The News4JAX I-TEAM has learned new information about the investigation into the drug overdose deaths of two Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay petty officers back in 2017.
Investigators said Brian Jarrell, 25, and Ty Bell 26, died in the same Kingsland, Georgia, home from a fentanyl overdose.
According to a federal indictment, Thomas Federuik, 59, of Canada, and Paul Nicholls, 44, of England, mailed opioids containing traces of fentanyl from Canada to an address in Kingsland. Investigators say consumption of the tainted opioids led to the overdose deaths Jarrell and Bell, who were both petty officers.
Specifically, Federuik and Nicholls were indicted on federal charges alleging an international operation used the dark web to distribute illegal drugs in the United States, with some of those drugs resulting in the deaths of the two U.S. Navy petty officers, according to the Department of Justice.
The Jacksonville Drug Enforcement Administration office was not part of this international investigation, but Assistant Special Agent In Charge Mike Dubet says the trafficking of harmful narcotics via mail from other countries happens more often than many people might think.
“There are so many items moving through our postal system, so it becomes a challenge to identify what package has something of contraband versus something that is legitimate,” Dubet said.
According to the indictment, the two suspects obtained the drugs from China and Hungary and then used legitimate businesses to import the drugs into Canada, and then they would sell the drugs on the dark web.
If that sounds familiar — three years ago, I was granted exclusive access to the DEA’s cyber unit, which goes after drug dealers on the dark web.
“Opioids are a big thing, but we have a lot of synthetics coming out of China. We have fentanyl, we have marijuana, MDA, all the same drugs you see on the streets you will see on the dark web,” an undercover agent explained to me previously.
While the indictment doesn’t specifically say how the two men are linked to the deaths of the two sailors, my previous interview with an undercover agent sheds light on how investigators can link overdose deaths to potential suspects.
“We’re able to get their client list, shipping addresses and names they sold drugs to over the internet, and we were able to compare that to obituary listings. One vender can be responsible for 20 to 40 overdose deaths,” an agent explained to me previously.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram recently held a news conference addressing the dangers of purchasing drugs online.
“Never take medicine that wasn’t prescribed personally to you and filled by a licensed pharmacist,” Milgram said. “Spread the word that one pill can kill.”
The suspects in the Kings Bay case are expected to be extradited to the U.S., where they will go before a federal judge in Brunswick.