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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: James O'Neill

2 sentenced in CdA bar cocaine case

A Coeur d'Alene man involved in a large cocaine distribution ring that was based in part out of a Sherman Avenue bar has been sentenced to four years in prison. 

Christopher McFarland, 49, (left) also is to be on probation for five years and has forfeited his ownership interest in the bar.

McFarland worked with James Roy “Slim” O'Neill, who was sentenced in April 2011 to 15 years in prison.

O'Neill's wife, Lecia Donita O'Neill, 46, (right) , also was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in prison, followed by ten months of home confinement and eight years of probation.

 The sentencings in U.S. District Court close a case that began with arrests in May 2010.

“Slim” O'Neill, 50, (left) was the kingpin of a cocaine distribution ring that supplied the drug in North Idaho for at least a decade and operated partly out of Chillers bar on Sherman Avenue near South 20th Street.

O'Neill also grew marijuana near Mineral Ridge, a popular hiking area with a spectacular view of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

The O’Neills used proceeds from cocaine and marijuana sales to finance an expensive lifestyle, including cars, recreational vehicles and annual trips to NASCAR's Daytona 500 race in Florida.

Co-defendant Gary A. Votava was sentenced last year to two years in prison and four years probation. Stephen J. McCabe was sentenced to 18 months in prison and five years probation. Debra L. Margraff was sentenced to five months in prison and three years probation.

Manuel Rivera, who supplied cocaine to O'Neill from Kennewick, was sentenced to 108 months in prison.

“Those who bring cocaine or other illegal drugs into our communities will be brought to justice,” Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, said in a prepared statement.  “Yesterday’s sentencing marks the end of a successful investigation.  It is a victory for our communities.  I commend the cooperative law enforcement work that ended this long-lasting drug trafficking operation.”

Authorities began investigating O'Neill after finding his phone number in former school booster and imprisoned cocaine addict Jerry Carlson's phone records.. Carlson is to be released from federal prison on May 1.

CdA coke kingpin sentenced to 15 years

A longtime Coeur d'Alene cocaine dealer who laundered money through a bar and restaurant has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

James Roy “Slim” O'Neill, 49, was the kingpin of a cocaine distribution ring that supplied the drug in North Idaho for at least a decade and operated partly out of Chiller's bar on Sherman Avenue.

According to court documents, O'Neill also grew marijuana near Mineral Ridge, a popular hiking area that gives a spectacular view of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

O’Neill used proceeds from cocaine and marijuana sales to finance an expensive lifestyle, including cars, recreational vehicles and annual trips to the Daytona 500 race in Florida.

He pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute cocaine/marijuana and conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced last week to 180 months in prison.

Others arrested in the case include O’Neill’s wife, Lecia D. O’Neill, as well as Gary A. Votava; Christopher B. McFarland; Stephen J. McCabe; and Debra L. Margraff, all of Coeur d’Alene.

Arrested in Kennewick was Manuel Rivera. Investigators believe Rivera supplied cocaine to O'Neill, who in turn supplied it to others. He pleaded guilty this month to a cocaine charge as well as a forfeiture charge that calls for hm to give up $50,000 and an SUV believed to have transported the drugs.

The other codefendants also have entered plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing.

O'Neill sold cocaine to a confidential informant six times, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He and his wife also deposited about $200,000 into their bank account over a six-year period while claiming an income of little more than $3,000.

Chris McFarland was a longtime friend of O'Neill. He sold cocaine to “a handful of persons” through Chillers and used the proceeds to pay back O'Neill for fronted cocaine, according to court documents.

McFarland's wife, Linda McFarland, owned Chiller's. She's charged in Kootenai County District Court.

Authorities began investigating O'Neill after finding his phone number in former school booster and imprisoned cocaine addict Jerry Carlson's phone records.

Past coverage:

May 26: DEA raid shuts down alleged cocaine ring

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.

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