Robert Kiessling was a currency-trading instructor with Okanagan College’s Continuing Education department, and according to an obituary written shortly after his Jan. 17 death, an “outstanding and caring” father and son.
In recent days, however, he’s become known for a role that’s far darker.
Kiessling, 40, was among several of the most prolific online fentanyl dealers in North America, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice.
He went by the handle DF44 and was, as of the time of his January arrest, considered the third-largest fentanyl vendor in North America, based on sales. He was arrested as part of “Operation Darkness Falls,” a joint effort from law enforcement agencies from Canada and the U.S.A, targeting people and organizations that sell fentanyl and other drugs over the dark net.
A court affidavit that was unsealed in recent weeks indicates that RCMP watched Kiessling Jan. 9, as he left his house in the south Mission area of Kelowna and dropped his wife off at an address across the city.
Kiessling then drove to the Canada Post located inside the Towne Centre Card Shop on Bernard Avenue and was arrested by an RCMP officer as he placed an envelope with a Cleveland address on the counter.
“The items in the envelope were described as promo material with a declared value of $5,” reads the document.
Hand written on the document was the name “Picnictable,” the undercover name by the Postal Inspector during the narcotics investigation.
Two RCMP officers examined the contents of the parcel and allegedly found a “silver Mylar bag” within sheets of folded and taped together printed material. In it, they say, was a white powdery substance consistence with fentanyl or fentanyl analogue, weighing 10.6 grams.
A subsequent search of his address yielded a safe, bulk currency, a scale, label maker, thumb drives and bags of white powder consistent with fentanyl.
Kiessling’s common-law wife was later interviewed and said that she and her two teenage daughters had no knowledge of what happened behind the closed door of Kiessling’s office. He was released on bond in Calgary and according to a press release from the Department of Justice died by suicide less than a week after his arrest. He was never tried or convicted of the crimes with which he is becoming known for.
Allan Coyle, director of public affairs for Okanagan College, said that Kiessling worked for the school from 2009 to 2014. Coyle declined to say anything more than Kiessling was still under contract when he died.
Others had much more to say about Kiessling and his alleged activities on the dark web.
At a press conference in Cleveland, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was joined by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman and other Justice Department officials who condemned the activities of Kiessling and several others swept up in “Operation Darkness Falls.”
“Today’s announcements are a warning to every trafficker, every crooked doctor or pharmacist, and every drug company, every chairman and foreign national and company that puts greed before the lives and health of the American people: this Justice Department will use civil and criminal penalties alike and we will find you, put you in jail, or make you pay,” said Sessions in a press conference at the time.
U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman added that mechanics of drug dealing has changed, and law enforcement has changed with it,” he said.
“These cases demonstrate that those who think they are hiding behind a cloak of anonymity on the dark net will be uncovered and brought to justice for selling the drugs killing our friends and neighbours.”
The opioid epidemic has affected every part of Canada, certain regions have been impacted more than others.
Statistics Canada reports that there were more than 8,000 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada between January 2016 and March 2018. There were 3,005 apparent opioid-related deaths in 2016 and 3,996 in 2017. Between January and March 2018, there were at least 1,036 apparent opioid-related deaths of which 94 per cent were accidental (unintentional).
Between January and March 2018, 73 per cent of accidental apparent opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, compared to 54 per cent in 2016 and 72 per cent in 2017.
The Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced last month that several arrests charges and guilty pleas as a result.