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In prescription drug ring bust, eight suspects denied bond

Wed., March 6, 2013, midnight

Eight suspects arrested last week in what’s been described as a massive prescription drug ring between Los Angeles and Spokane have been ordered held in jail pending further arguments.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno sided with prosecution arguments seeking to keep all but one of nine identified defendants in jail. However, the hearings did not provide new details about the federal investigation into what court records describe as an oxycodone smuggling ring that dates back to 2008.

“Obviously, this is a significant investigation and there are still a number of fugitives out there,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Van Marter said in court.

Federal agents raided 30 locations in Los Angeles and 16 locations in Spokane. Some 41 people, including 12 in Spokane, were taken into custody or already in jail.

Just nine of those Spokane suspects have been identified. Van Marter said the other three suspects in custody have not been identified and have not had bail hearings. She noted that several fugitives remain on the loose and federal authorities are being cautious about what names they release for that reason.

On Friday, Imbrogno set bond at $150,000 for Sally B. Guthrie, owner of three Flamin’ Joe’s restaurants in the Spokane area.

On Monday, Imbrogno ordered 20-year-old Mercedes L. Reeves held. On Tuesday, Imbrogno came to the same conclusion with 21-year-old Katriel M. Bulley; Brandon L. Chavez, 36; David E. Colbert, 36; Amber C. Branch, 21; Marlon D. Johnson, 38; and 44-year-old Harry J. Johnwell and Arvin T. Carmen.

All were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Carmen was charged with operating continuing criminal enterprise.

At Bulley’s hearing, Van Marter said the Los Angeles native was a gang member who has flown 16 times to Spokane but that “this organization” used all forms of transportation, including buses and taxis, to conduct the illegal drug trade, she said.

“Mr. Bulley is a young man who is affiliating himself with a dangerous gang,” Van Marter said. “He’s traveling to Spokane for what appears to be no other reason” than trafficking the prescription drugs.

She noted the home where Bulley was arrested had two loaded guns.

Bulley’s attorney, David Partovi, asked the judge to release his client because his mother had promised to keep a watchful eye.

“I don’t know the strength of the government’s evidence,” Partovi said. “If accepted as accurate, he is a low-level player.”


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