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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Drug Enforcement Administration

Warrant issued for ‘80s ‘mountain man’

This Dec. 18, 1984 file photo shows Don Nichols, right, standing with his son, Dan Nichols, left, as they pled not guilty in court in Virginia City, Mont. Standing with them is attorney, Steve Ungar. (AP Photo/File)

By MATT GOURAS,Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — One of the infamous “mountain men” who in the 1980s eluded authorities for five months by living in the wilderness is on the run from the law again — and considered “armed and dangerous.”

The U.S. attorney's office in Montana has filed federal drug and weapons charges against Dan Nichols, who with his father was convicted in kidnaping a world class athlete in 1984, killing a would-be rescuer and hiding in the remote mountains northwest of Yellowstone National Park.

An indictment unsealed Wednesday alleges Nichols and two other men were involved in a statewide marijuana distribution ring that netted nearly $1.8 million. The news comes as his 81-year-old father, Don, comes up for a parole hearing next week.

Federal marshals said they are now looking for the younger Nichols, who was previously wanted in state court for not appearing earlier this year on relatively minor drug charges filed after his arrest at a rock concert. The new federal charges allege a much larger conspiracy.

“He should definitely be considered armed and dangerous,” said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal for Montana, Rod Ostermiller. “He is obviously someone who hasn't been compliant with law enforcement in the past.”

Ostermiller wouldn't say whether authorities believe Nichols has taken to the woods again. But he warned the public to be wary of the 5-foot-11, 150-pound Nichols.

“I think there is some definite safety issues involved regarding this individual,” the marshal said. “That is just one thing we can't stress enough.”

The original, bizarre crime gripped the state and the nation when the father and son abducted world-class biathlete Kari Swenson in 1984 while she was on a training run in the mountains above the resort town of Big Sky. The elder Nichols was reportedly looking for a wife for his then 19-year-old son.

The so-called mountain men had been living continuously in the woods for a year prior to the abduction, growing hidden makeshift gardens, poaching game and generally staying out of sight.

The scheme quickly fell apart when would-be rescuers stumbled upon the camp. In the melee, Dan Nichols accidentally shot Swenson. An armed standoff ensued, and the elder Nichols gunned down Alan Goldstein.

The Nichols evaded capture by living in the Madison Range, until they surrendered when a Madison County sheriff caught up with them.

Swenson, despite diminished lung capacity from the gunshot wound, went on to win a bronze medal in the world biathlon championships.

The new charges against Nichols include allegations the felon illegally amassed dozens of rifles, assault weapons, pistols, and shotguns while engaged in drug crimes. Christopher Wayne Williams and Christopher Lindsey, two of the five co-founders of the now-shuttered Montana Cannabis statewide medical marijuana operation, are also charged, but they are not on the run.

Drug Enforcement Administration agent Wesley Smith said Thursday at a sentencing of Richard Flor, another Montana Cannabis co-founder, that Nichols worked for Williams at the operation's Helena marijuana nursery overseeing the care of hundreds of pot plants.

Federal agents raided the nursery as part of a crackdown on medical marijuana operations last year, and Smith said agents found a handgun in the camper that Nichols had been living in next to the nursery.

Federal authorities say the trio was involved in an operation that grew and sold marijuana in several Montana cities from 2006 until 2011. This came at a time when many in the state thought they were legally running medical marijuana businesses under a state law.

All of the Montana Cannabis co-owners, who also ran the Montana Caregivers Association, have been indicted or pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.

Feds: Dad gave marijuana to young kids

A medical marijuana patient arrested in Yakima Monday told authorities he provided marijuana to his three young children.

Troy Mallard Craig, 32, said two of his children also have medical marijuana cards, according to a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court.

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at Craig's home in the 3300 block of Barge Street about 4:15 p.m. and seized 67 marijuana plants, bags of processed marijuana, a digital scale and several medical marijuana cards.

Craig said he'd been growing marijuana for about two years and giving it to five or six friends in exchange for “donations.”

“Craig admitted to providing marijuana in one form or another to all three of his children, ages 2, 5, and 7,” according to the complaint.

Craig remains jailed in Yakima after appearing before U.S. Magistrate James Hutton Tuesday.

Speeding stop yields 2.5 lbs. of cocaine

A traffic stop on Interstate 90 near Ritzville yielded nearly 2 1/2 pounds of packaged cocaine and led to the arrest of two men recently.

Marshall Jay Devore, 31, and Rudolph Salvador Pyne, 32, are facing federal drugs charges in U.S. District Court in Spokane after a state trooper stopped a 2003 Jeep Cherokee for driving 84 pm in the 70 mph zone near milepost 221 about 11 p.m. Feb. 11, according to documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Devore, the driver, had a misdemeanor warrant for driving while suspended. Pyne, his passenger, also had a suspended license, so troopers impounded the Jeep, which was registered to a woman in the 2400 block of East Rowan Avenue in Spokane. 

While doing an “inventory” on the Jeep, troopers found a duffel bag open with what appeared to be a brick of packaged drugs visible. Detectives say Devore said he'd picked up Rudolph with the bag in Seattle. He  gave them permission to search the Jeep, detectives say, and they located packages of cocaine that weighed 1,079 grams, according to court documents.

Pyne has a previous federal felony conviction for bank robbery in California. He said nothing in the Jeep belonged to him. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration filed papers Friday seeking to charge the men with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Devore, who has previous felony convictions for manufacturing a controlled substance in Spokane County in 2008, is in the Adams County Jail. Pyne does not yet appear to be in custody.

24 lbs. of pot in Ore. leads to Spokane

The discovery of 24 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop in Oregon led police to arrest a suspected distributor in Spokane this week.

The investigation began when Kevin C. McKeag, 28, of Chattaroy, was arrested near Roseburg, Ore., Feb. 2 after a drug dog detected marijuana in his 2003 Dodge pickup during a stop on Interstate 5 about 5 p.m., according to the Oregon State Police.

Troopers found the marijuana in a hidden compartment in the truck. McKeag said he was traveling to Spokane to deliver the pot, according to police.

McKeag was transported to the Spokane office of the Drug Enforcement Administration after agreeing to cooperate with law enforcement. He told them he'd been transporting marijuana to Spokane from California for the past year to sell 12 or more pounds at a time to Jeremy Scott Thornton, according to court documents.

The Spokane Regional Drug Task Force arranged for McKeag to sell marijuana to Thornton, 35, in a monitored transaction on Feb. 3. Detectives then searched Thornton's home at 2509 E. Diamond Ave. Feb. 6 and arrested him on drug charges.

Thornton, a self-employed landscaper and avid disc golfer, left the Spokane County Jail Monday on $10,000 bond.

Calif. OxyContin sales traced to E. Wash.

A suspected large-scale OxyContin dealer in Southern California was arrested after the DEA tracked drug sales into Eastern Washington.

Robert Beron is accused of selling large amount of OxyContin to Mitchell Hargan, Marisol Hernandez, Jaime McGahuey and Kim Chavez of Wenatchee.

The DEA began investigating Beron in May 2010 through a confidential informant.

Beron, who traveled to Washington regularly, told the informant he was still able to get the old OxyContin pills distributed before Purdue Pharma changed the formula to make them harder to abuse, which gave him huge profits, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane. Beron arranged to sell the informant 400 80-mg pills for $6,000 in February, documents allege. The sale was monitored by the DEA.

Beron said he sometimes traveled to Las Vegas to visit his girlfriend and stay in luxury hotels, according to the DEA.

Hargan entered the investigation in September when Chelan County sheriff's deputies responded to a domestic violence report involving a man who said his wife had started seeing Hargan again. The man told deputies Hargan was a large-scale pill dealer who bought the drugs from a man named Robert in California, and that a woman named Mary picked up the pills from the post office.

Another DEA informant bought OxyContin from McGahuey and his girlfriend, Chavez, who also live in Wenatchee.

Beron was arrested at his home in Salinas, Calif., on Jan. 12.  Poilice found a 9 mm handgun and 530 methadone pills.

Later that day, investigators in Wenatchee watched Hernandez pick up a a package form Beron at the post office, then travel to Hargan's home, which police then searched. McGahuey and Chavez also were arrested Jan. 12 after a search warrant was served at their home.

The suspects face federal drug charges.

100 lbs of meth, $20k seized at border

About 100 pounds of methamphetamine and $20,000 was found near the Canadian border on Sunday. 

Border patrol agents found the drugs and cash in three backpacks and a duffel bag in a field at the border just west of the Danville port of entry.

The seizures “were the result of effective tactical planning and utilization of advanced surveillance technology,” according to a news release.

“This seizure is yet another example of the good work exercised daily by our highly trained Border Patrol Agents,” said Gloria Chavez, chief of the Spokane Border Patrol Sector. “Our surveillance and tactical coordination capabilities played a pivotal role in the discovery and seizure of the cash and illicit contraband.”

No other details were available. The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating.

The seizure rivals the discovery of 310 pounds of Ecstasy near the border in October 2010.

Iraqi-Mexican drug ring busted in Calif.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy talks about the indictments evolving from arrest made in the undercover operation involving Iraqi Immigrants and Mexican drug cartels at a news conference Thursday in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

By JULIE WATSON,Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Federal officials said Thursday they've busted a drug trafficking ring involving Mexico's most powerful cartel and members of an Iraqi immigrant community in the U.S. who were caught selling illegal drugs, assault rifles, grenades and homemade explosives.

About 60 people from the Iraqi community were arrested after a six-month investigation carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in the city of El Cajon, a working-class city east of San Diego.

Many of the suspects are Iraqi Chaldeans — Christians who fled their homeland amid threats from al-Qaida and other extremists. Police say at least some of those arrested are suspected of being affiliated with the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate, an Iraqi gang based in Detroit.

Authorities say the suspects were working out of an Iraqi social club in El Cajon and shipping drugs supplied by Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel to Detroit, home to the largest Chaldean population in the United States, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday. El Cajon has the second largest Chaldean population.

 Officials were tipped off after neighbors and even some of the club members' spouses complained for years about the establishment's criminal activity, which has included attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales.

Authorities seized 18 pounds of methamphetamine, narcotics, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

In April, a DEA undercover operative was shown a hand grenade by one of the Iraqis and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military source.

Man claims role in Tupac’s murder

NEW YORK (AP) — A hip-hop mogul wanted by federal authorities on drug charges did not orchestrate a plot to ambush rapper Tupac Shakur outside a recording studio in the mid-1990s, his lawyer said Thursday.

The accusations against James Rosemond, owner of Czar Entertainment, were levied online and attributed to convicted killer Dexter Isaac, who is serving a life

 sentence in an unrelated murder-for-hire plot. Isaac says, according to the website, that he was paid $2,500 by Rosemond to shoot and rob Shakur.

Shakur (pictured in 1993) was hit five times in the shooting at the Quad Studios in Manhattan in 1994. He survived but was later gunned down in Las Vegas in a slaying that remains unsolved.
The mystery surrounding Shakur's death has fueled interest in the smallest of details about his life, as well as the old-school feud between East Coast and West Coast rap that some say contributed to his killing.
Isaac stole jewelry off Shakur and handed over a diamond ring to Rosemond after the late-night ambush, the post published Wednesday reads.
“I still have the chain that we took that night,” he wrote, according to the post.
New York City police were investigating the claims, though it's not clear if anyone would face charges, in part because the incident occurred about 17 years ago. Rosemond is wanted by federal authorities in New York on drug charges and as of Thursday remained a fugitive.
Erin Mulvey, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, refused to comment on Isaac and would not give any details on Rosemond.
His lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, could not comment about the federal case against his client. But he said the accusations posted online were lies fabricated because Isaac is upset he was outed as a government informant.
“This is a guy who is a blood-thirsty killer, trying to work off a life sentence, and for some reason his accusations are taken as fact?” Lichtman asked.
The post is rife with bitterness directed at Rosemond.
“Now I would like to clear up a few things, because the statute of limitations is over, and no one can be charged, and I'm just plain tired of listening to your lies,” according to the post.
Isaac was convicted in the 1997 murder-for-hire shooting death of cab driver Waleed Hammouda. The victim's wife, Micheline, offered Isaac property in exchange for killing her husband. She was also convicted.
He is serving life in prison and was transferred earlier this year to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn from a prison in Colorado.
An employee at the Brooklyn detention center said inmates were not allowed to receive calls and were allowed only approved in-person visits. In order to be approved, a person must first write to the inmate and receive a visitor form.
It wasn't clear whether Isaac still had a lawyer, and a call to the website wasn't returned.

Teen arrested on Ecstasy, gun charges

A 19-year-old Spokane man is in custody after a federal drug informant recorded him discussing how he'd stolen firearms and would “shoot it out with the cops” if he was approached.

Patrick Hayes Wellman was arrested on Friday just yards from Glover Middle School and within 1,000 feet of Shadle Park High School, where he attended, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks.

He appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail.

Investigators found hundreds of Ecstasy tablets in a safe at Wellman's apartment at 221 S. Adams in Spokane Valley, as well as marijuana on a coffee table and several bongs that “all smelled pretty bad,” Drug Enforcement Administration agent Sam Keiser testified on Wednesday.

The DEA began investigating Wellman after a confidential informant told them Friday that Wellman sold large quantities of Ecstasy and repeatably said he could obtain as many pills as he wished.

The informant was to buy 100 pills from Wellman for $450. During a recorded conversation, Wellman allegedly boasted to the informant of stealing firearms; when the informant asked what he would do if stopped by police, Wellman responded “Well, I'm not going to go down easy. I'm going to shoot it out with the cops,” Keiser testified.

That comment led police to initiated a traffic stop after tailing Wellman as he drove in Spokane last Friday. Five police vehicles blocked Wellman's car, and he was arrested without incident, Keiser said. He had  a loaded .44 revolver in the car, Keiser said.

Wellman called his girlfriend from jail and told her a possible name of the informant, then asked her to inform two of his friends. The informant told the DEA he received a message from an unknown number saying “We know you're a snitch. You're dead.”

Asked by Wellman's public defender if the informant, who was previously arrested on drug charge, won't face criminal charges because of his cooperation, Keiser said, “if it's enough to warrant that, then yes.”

Wellman faces federal charges of possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. He's also charged in Spokane County Superior Court with residential burglary, first-degree theft, second-degree car theft, and six counts of theft of a firearm.

DEA: Tri-Cities man supplied CdA cocaine

A Coeur d’Alene man accused of leading a cocaine distribution ring for at least 10 years is believed to have obtained the drugs from a Kennewick man.

New documents filed in U.S. District Court allege Manuel Rivera supplied James Roy “Slim” O’Neill (left) with cocaine that O’Neill then sold out of Coeur d’Alene.

Both men remain in federal custody - Rivera in Bonner County and O’Neill in Kootenai County - after their lawyers waived bail hearings on Monday.

A third suspect, Chillers bar owner Chris McFarland, was released on several conditions, including that he not work at Chillers. McFarland was convicted in 1994 of possessing several ounces of cocaine in Utah.

The new documents show a confidential informant arrested in connection with the case had a GPS unit on his car as early as November 2009. Investigators said the GPS device showed he traveled to Pasco to meet with Rivera shortly before he was stopped with nearly 70 grams of cocaine in Idaho. That informant told investigators Rivera was O’Neill’s cocaine supplier and had recently provided black tar heroin to O’Neill.

Investigators put a GPS tracker on O’Neill’s Ford scape and pulled his phone records. Idaho State Police detectives even sent O’Neill’s trash to a forensic lab for resting - traces of cocaine often was detected.

The informant bought cocaine from Rivera on several occasions, according to court documents. Meanwhile, detectives were watching O’Neill and McFarland and observing what they believed were drug deals at Chillers.

O’Neill was arrested May 25 with his wife, Lecia O’Neill, after a raid at their home at 2202 N. 9th. Also arrested were Rivera, McFarland, Gary Votava, Steve McCabe and Debra Margraff.

Three other Coeur d’Alene residents face state charges in connection with the case: James Lunceford, Kelli Lunceford and Michael G. Wachholz, 36.

Wachholz’s charge relates to cocaine found at his home during a search by probation officers in March, according to documents filed in Kootenai County District Court. The Luncefords were arrested May 25 after a search at their home at 2200 Monte Vista Drive. Investigators found less than a gram of cocaine. All three are out of jail on bond.

Past coverage:

May 26: DEA raid shuts down alleged CdA coke ring

CdA bar raided, 6 arrested in cocaine bust

For 20 years, federal agents allege, a Coeur d’Alene cocaine dealer went undetected by law enforcement, thanks in part to a tight-knit group of traffickers that included his friends and family. 

But James Roy “Slim” O’Neill’s alleged criminal enterprise imploded Tuesday when he and six other suspects were arrested after a months-long drug investigation involving a Coeur d’Alene bar now targeted in a federal forfeiture. 

A federal complaint filed Friday says O’Neill used proceeds from drug sales to finance an expensive lifestyle, including cars, recreational vehicles and annual trips to the Daytona 500 race in Florida.

O’Neill and his wife, 44-year-old Lecia D. O’Neill, were arrested Tuesday, as were Gary A. Votava, 51; Christopher B. McFarland, 48; Stephen J. McCabe, 51; and Debra L. Margraff, 48, all of Coeur d’Alene. Arrested in Kennewick was Manuel Rivera, 34.

Read the rest of my story here.

Pictured above: Top row, left to right: James O’Neill, Lecia O’Neill and Christopher McFarland. Bottom row, left to right: Stephen McCabe, Debra McGraff and Gary Votava.

More charges in pot border smuggling

The owner of the Ferry County property where drug agents caught two Canadian pot smugglers last fall faces federal marijuana charges.

Harold Oscar Strandberg, of Danville, is accused of using his property at Fourth of July Creek Road, which is on the U.S.-Canadian border, to import marijuana from Canada, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Strandberg was home when Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrived Nov. 1 on a tip that drug smugglers were at the property.

Strandberg reportedly told them he knew nothing about the case and let the agents search the property, where they eventually found William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, with duffel bags filled with marijuana.

Paterson and Oakes, both of Kelowna B.C, pleaded guilty Jan. 21 in U.S. District Court to three counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. The men, who are in Spokane County Jail, will be sentenced April 22. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of three. No plea deals were made.

There was a pre-trial conference in Strandberg’s case last week. He’s not in jail, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges Jan. 8.

Strandberg was an eight-year member of the Curlew School Board, according to the Omak Chronicle. He did not seek reelection last year, the newspaper reported.

Past coverage:

Pot smugglers: We’re guilty

2 arrested after DEA finds pot near border

Canadian pot smugglers: We’re guilty

Two Canadian men who smuggled marijuana into Ferry County last fall pleaded guilty to three federal drug charges today.

William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, both of Kelowna B.C, pleaded guilty to three counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a minimum of three. No plea deals were made.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Spokane drove to Ferry County Nov. 1 after a tip that drug smugglers were near a home at Fourth of July Creek Road in Danville, adjacent to the border, according to court documents.

Paterson and Oakes were arrested trying to smuggle in eight duffel bags filled with marijuana, weighing about 235 pounds. The men will be sentenced April 22.

Past coverage:

Men arrested after DEA  finds pot near border

Pot suspects get new attorneys

B.C man in coke bust to stay in jail

A Canadian citizen arrested in Eastern Washington with more than 80 pounds of cocaine will remain in federal custody, a judge ruled today.

Michael B. Yuill, 36, of Salmon Arm, B.C., has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest on the Colville Indian Reservation Oct. 7. DEA agents found 38 kilos of cocaine in his rented Nissan Sport Utility Vehicle, according to federal court documents.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno said in a ruling filed this morning that there isn’t proof Yuill has a plan for his release that would ensure he’d appear for court dates. While Yuill is very close to his mother and has monthly contact with his brothers, Imbrogno noted that no family members attended his bail hearing Tuesday.

“Typically, if a defendant is a citizen from outside the United States, there is strong family support present at the bail hearing with reasonable assurances the family can assist with supervision and with facilitating an individual’s return for court dates,” Imbrogno wrote.

Yuill’s public defender said his employer at a Salmon Arm saloon can help with bond, but federal prosecutors say that man is being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in connection to Yuill’s charges, according to Imbrogno’s ruling. (UPDATE: prosecutors say the investigation is NOT related to the cocaine bust.)

Federal agents began tracking Yuill, an electrician and father of two with no criminal record, after Spokane International Airport police said he’d rented several SUVs in the last four months and returned them with unusually high mileage.

Read my previous story here.

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