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.
Drug Enforcement Administration officials believe O’Neill, 48, has sold more than 15 kilograms of cocaine in the last seven years.
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.
Federal agents searched six Coeur d’Alene addresses and one location in Kennewick Tuesday. O’Neill’s wife, 44-year-old Lecia D. O’Neill, was arrested, 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.
The six Coeur d’Alene defendants remain in Kootenai County Jail after appearing in U.S. District Court on Wednesday. Each faces a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
McFarland owns Chillers bar, 1920 E. Sherman Ave., where investigators believe O’Neill’s drug operation was partly based.
Votova owns a trailer on Goldrush Road that drug agents believe was used as a stash spot for cocaine and for a small marijuana-growing operation.
McCabe is a suspected cocaine dealer who lives with Margraff, according to court documents.
Confidential informants made six cocaine purchases from O’Neill since November. Then on May 19, an undercover investigator at Chillers saw what she believed to be drug sales. A grand jury indictment was filed two days later.
Investigators spent months examining O’Neill’s phone and bank records. In court documents, they say he portrayed himself as a roofer but “has not engaged in any behavior that would be construed as being employed.”
Investigators say O’Neill reported just $3,000 in income since 1998, but he’s deposited about $200,000 into bank accounts since February 2004.
“O’Neill was able to do this with no legitimate employment; a wife with little income; and three children to clothe and feed,” according to court documents. And the amount doesn’t include cash spent on living expenses.
“Nor does it take into account the estimated $500,000 in currency likely spent by O’Neill in purchasing cocaine since at least June 2003,” documents allege.
An indictment calls for the defendants to forfeit $500,000. It also calls for the defendants to forfeit Chillers bar, the O’Neill home at 2202 N. Ninth St., the trailer at 922 S. Goldrush Road, Votova’s home at 6704 E. Buckboard Road, and McFarland’s home at 1310 N. Ninth St.