A B.C. man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for running a fentanyl and methamphetamine lab in a house he had rented from a Vernon teacher.
Jason Lukacs, 38, was sentenced to 10 years for production of fentanyl and eight years for production of methamphetamine, with the sentences to run concurrently.
“The grave nature of these offences, the need to emphasize denunciation and deterrence and Mr. Lukacs’ very high moral culpability call for a significant sentence,” Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said in her Aug. 10 decision released Sept. 8.
Donegan noted the staggering health and community cost of the ongoing drug epidemic. In 2020, the total number of B.C. deaths was 1,728; 283 of these occurred in the Interior Health Authority, 26 of which were in Vernon, she said.
“He cannot, of course, be held responsible for the opioid, and in particular the fentanyl, epidemic but he does bear responsibility for contributing to it,” Donegan said.
“Importation or local production of these substances is where this crisis begins.”
The lab was set up in a house rented from Kenneth Pivnick, who had purchased a large rural property with two residences in Vernon in 2016.
A first-time landlord, Pivnick rented the newer residence out to Lukacs and his wife Jesse Porth and their two children.
Lukacs was aware Pivnick would be absent in March 2017. He moved his family into a motel and allowed a sophisticated, large-scale, basement lab to be set up where fentanyl and methamphetamines were both produced.
All rooms in the basement were used for production purposes: one room for storage, one for synthesis and one for a mixing station.
Venting for the lab area ran through the basement ceiling and into the floor of the closet in the master bedroom on the main floor, along the closet wall, through the ceiling, into the upper loft area and out the window.
The driveway was used to park cargo trailers that transported and housed large quantities of chemicals and lab equipment.
However, Pivnick arrived home early and found the lab and called police.
What police found was the lab in the final stages of being dismantled. In addition to residues and reaction byproducts, police found about 1.3 kilograms of crude methamphetamine crystals and other chemicals along with lab equipment.
“These chemicals had the potential to make very large quantities, multiple kilograms, of methamphetamine,” Donegan said.
Police also found approximately 930 grams of fentanyl freebase, equivalent to approximately a kilogram of fentanyl hydrochloride that could theoretically be recovered from solutions, and all of the necessary lab glassware, equipment and all but one of the chemicals necessary to produce more fentanyl.
The lab was the first of its sort encountered by RCMP's B.C. division’s Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement and Response Unit.
“Prior to that, fentanyl powder was typically imported into Canada,” Donegan said.
Donegan said Lukacs was not the drug-production operation mastermind but “he most certainly played an integral and trusted role in their production.”
Donegan noted the emotional toll the situation has taken on Pivnick, who had planned to live in the newer house on retirement. The court heard the costs of the crimes had set back his retirement date.
“Not only was this home significantly damaged by the holes cut to accommodate the venting for the lab and the large amounts of illicit substance residue throughout, Mr. Lukacs and those he allowed entry left massive amounts of garbage and dog excrement to be cleaned.
“It took me about 3 years after the discovery of the drug lab to feel like myself again,’ Pivnick said in a victim impact statement.
Lukacs was sentenced to 10 years for production of fentanyl and eight years for production of methamphetamine, the sentences to run concurrently.
Lukacs was also ordered to pay $60,974.43 restitution to Pivnick.