Convicted Oshawa fentanyl dealer will spend next decade in prison

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Published April 27, 2023 at 9:02 pm

Gavel court sentence

A man convicted of fentanyl dealing and illegal gun possession will spend the next decade in prison for plying his trade in Oshawa after the trial judge declared his product, “a true social evil and an ongoing threat to the welfare of our community.”

Justice Brenda Green sentenced Mark McPherson to 11 years in prison after McPherson pled guilty to five charges; three for illicit firearms possession and two for drug trafficking of both fentanyl and methamphetamine. The sentence was announced on Apr. 13.

Durham Regional Police began their investigation into McPherson in May 2022. They kicked off the investigation after noticing known drug users briefly go to the house at 91 Celina St. in Central Oshawa.

91 Celina St. in Oshawa via Google Maps.

Using surveillance cameras, police determined the buyers were attending Unit 9, which belonged to McPherson. On the evening of May 12, investigators observed three people, two of whom were known drug users, attend the home for a few minutes before leaving. They saw another five “brief attendances” the next day and another six on May 18.

Also on May 18, police surveilled McPherson leave the home briefly to drive over to 60 Kenneth Ave, a three minute drive north east. They watch McPherson attend the home but leave two minutes later to go back home. Additionally, a confidential source reported a Black man named Jay was selling meth, fentanyl and cocaine from unit 9 at 91 Celina St. that same day.

On May 20, they watched two more brief attendances as well as McPherson walking to Memorial Park, a roughly three minute walk from his home. He met with four people there who came home with him. One of this group left four minutes later. Shortly thereafter another man came to the house, but left two minutes later. Green would describe this activity as “a revolving door of brief visits consistent with trafficking.”

At 6:45 p.m. that evening, McPherson got in a taxi with a wheeled luggage and a backpack. The taxi took him to a Whitby gas station. Police followed the cab all the while and arrested McPherson at the gas station.

Upon arrest, McPherson was wearing a satchel carrying a Sig Sauer pistol with a fully loaded 15-round over-capacity magazine and nearly $3,000 in cash. He also had more than 300 grams of fentanyl, 35 grams of cocaine and nearly 35 grams of meth in the wheeled luggage. He also had two scales and hundreds of dime bags.

Later police raided 91 Celina St. and found another nearly 16 grams of fentanyl in a safe. All together the 316 grams of seized fentanyl was worth up to $120,000 on the street and represented hundreds of doses. A potentially lethal dose is generally held to be 0.002 grams.

“McPherson was observed by police actively peddling in poison. He was effectively a mobile trafficking operation with a suitcase full of drugs. He was armed with a remarkedly deadly, loaded weapon with an over capacity magazine,” Green wrote, “The only available inference from these facts is that he was prepared to protect himself and his product using an illegal handgun.”

Green wrote about the impact of McPherson’s trade on Oshawa through her own experience as a sitting judge there. She noted “countless reports from vulnerable addicts about friends and family members who have died from fentanyl overdoses. Charges have been withdrawn because the defendants have died from fentanyl overdoses. The hundreds of baggies that Mr. McPherson carried to disperse these lethal drugs should have been stamped with a coffin because it is a drug that leads primarily to two places, the grave or jail.”

She called drug dealers “predators who prey on the vulnerabilities of users,” but noted that the drug user is not the only victim of the drug trade writing, “Traffickers contribute to a cycle of violence and crimes in our community. Thefts, break and enters and robberies and countless other offences are committed to fund the addicts’ need for drugs. There have been multiple shootings, assaults and murders in this jurisdiction associated with drug rip-offs.”

While she also stressed the need for strong sentencing to deter others from entering this line of work, she need to weigh McPherson’s personal circumstances as well. Born in Jamaica, McPherson immigrated to Canada to be with his father, a successful engineer.

However, his father died shortly after McPherson graduated high school. In his grief, McPherson “became deeply depressed and his life spiraled out of control.” He began drinking and was soon addicted to meth and cocaine. Between age 20 and 25, McPherson was in trouble with the law several time, but cleaned his act up in 2011.

There was then a ten-year gap in his criminal record during which McPherson worked as a heavy equipment operator. During this time he met his partner with whom he has three children aged 5 to 13.

However, this period was ended with the COVID-19 pandemic. McPherson was laid off from his job, separated from his partner and became homeless. Without a residence he was unable to see his boys. Eventually he began using drugs again. He re-entered the criminal justice system with an assault and drunk driving conviction in November 2021. He received a 101 day jail sentence, two years of probation and a five-year weapons ban.

Additionally, McPherson, now age 37, wrote an “eloquent” letter to court describing his desire to “become a better person and better father.” He is willing to engage in any education or career training programs he can while in prison. Green also noted McPherson was arrested  without incident, expressed remorse for his actions and pled guilty to his charges.

Finally, McPherson has a tumor on his jaw described as “prominent, debilitating, aggressive.” Sentencing was delayed for a surgery to remove parts of his jaw and replace it with bone and muscle from elsewhere in his body.

“Considering the seriousness of these crimes and the deadly nature of the drugs,” McPherson trafficked, Green said, Crown prosecutor Gregory Raven pushed for a 12-year sentence. Per Green Raven argued, “McPherson was carrying a loaded handgun as a tool of his trade that was designed as a killing machine. Its possession is antithetical to the norms and values of Canadians. A strong message must be sent to deter like-minded individuals from carrying a loaded firearm while trafficking in drugs by meting out a significant punishment.”

On the flip side, McPherson’s lawyer Nina Paciocco stressed McPherson’s “tragic background when he was much younger and recent events in his life that contributed to his downfall.” She argued for an eight to nine-year sentence since McPherson was a strong candidate for rehabilitation and “can be a positive contributing member of society once he is released from custody.”

Green stove to strike a balance between these arguments, ultimately sentencing McPherson to eleven years. After credit for pre-trial time served, McPherson has nine years and eight months left of his sentence.

 

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